Last week I had a call with Mum who is struggling with the “big sibling blues” at her house. Her children are now three and five years old however, when her youngest son was first born she noticed that her toddler was acting out more than usual and clearly demanding more attention from mum than ever. She noticed her older son acting out against the younger by putting a blanket on the baby’s head, taking the baby’s toys and pretending to be hurt during daily feeds all in order to get the little bit of extra attention from mummy.
As time passed, she hoped that the wedge between her children would slowly close and they would grow to be good friends. Well, three years have passed and they’re still at each other’s throats day and night. Becoming good friends is now a pipe dream for mum and instead, she would be happy if they simply got along.
If you can relate to this mum’s worries, I shared five simple ways that you can begin reframing those “sibling blues” in your house to boost the sibling affection.
1. Dedicating time for one on one
The very first thing that we need to look at, is making sure that both children are allowed ample one-on-one time with each parent. Having a younger sibling is an instant reminder for your older child, of days of the past when they had you all to themselves. This can draw attention to all that they’re missing out on, now they have to share your attention with someone who needs you more than they do. Your younger child or new baby is less independent and requires more of your attention throughout the day, so your older son or daughter are clearly going to notice this new dynamic in the relationship. This is why an essential part of repairing their relationship, is beginning with meeting your older child’s need for connection and one-on one time with each parent. So, shake up the routine and get in that important one-on-one time!
2. Teaching through stories
Stories are a wonderful avenue towards teaching new skills and creating new ideas. They work really well because stories are already motivating in themselves. Children love to listen to stories! By making them the hero of the story, you’re going to find that your child is immediately drawn to your story telling. You can be creative by sharing storylines where your older child was a hero and compromised with their smaller sibling, shared their favourite toy or included them with their big friends. The possibilities are endless and children absolutely love it! You may find your children recalling your stories later, “Look mum! I was a hero. I shared with Charlie!”
3. Daily gratitude lists
The next way to reframe the relationship between siblings, is to create a gratitude list at the end of each day. Have your older child make a list of all things he is grateful for with each member of the family. By starting with mummy and daddy, chances are that your older child will continue on to a younger sibling without feeling aversive. Gratitude lists are a great way to draw attention to the wonderful aspects about being a big brother. By incorporating this each night into your bedtime routine, you’ll find that over time your kids begin to see the good in each other more often.
4. Defining their role
Another way that you can begin reframing the relationship, so your older child begins to enjoy being a big brother or sister, is to define their new role as a team. Set aside time for you and your older child to review ways they can take on their new role as a big sibling. “What are some ways that you can be a good big brother or sister?” Now, allow them to fill in the blank on their own. They can come up with their own list of responsibilities or play activities to incorporate with their new role. This is a great way to boost their self-esteem and self accountability all in one go by providing them clarity around their new (or not so new) role. Children thrive when they have clarity around what is to come or what is expected of them. Get your creative hats out for this one!
5. Encouraging affection
Sibling affection happens all the time but we often overlook it or only notice the loud, disruptive behaviour. You can begin to set you youngsters up for sibling success by making an “affection board.” As a family, write down some ways you can show daily affection towards one another. These can be small acts of kindness that you know your children already do! It’s best to build on what you see already happening and wish would happen more often. This way you know it’s a reasonable goal for everyone. Whenever you notice an act of kindness, validate it with a quick tick on the poster board. Now your family has a visual reminder of how kind everyone is being to each other! This is a gentle, fun nudge in a more connected direction.
So what do you think about my list? What are some ways that you are building your children’s relationships with each other or boosting affection from one sibling to the other each day?
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