Google+ Authentic Parenting: Facilitating Sibling Connection

Friday, February 24, 2012

Facilitating Sibling Connection

Welcome to February edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month, participants have looked into the topic of “Fostering Healthy Attachment”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!
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We can't speak of attachment within a family without mentioning the bonds between siblings. Having a new family member arrive is an event that changes the entire family dynamic, and where it is a serious change for parents, it is even more drastic for an older child.
Fostering connection between siblings is something we - as parents - should be mindful about. Cultivating a healthy sibling relationship starts even before pregnancy.

Avoiding jealousy issues
Jealousy, as much as it is seen as inevitable in our culture, is not a necessary evil, there are things that can be done in order to prevent these negative feelings from arising in your older child(ren).

  • Before planning a sibling, talk it through with your older child or children. Most often, children don't get a voice in family sizing, but why not? The family unit influences them as much, and probably even more, than it does their parents, so talking about your wish for another child seems reasonable to say the least. And don't despair if your child says no to a sibling, they may change their mind at a later time.
  • Prepare them for the arrival of a sibling. Talk to your child about all it entails to have a baby brother or sister. Stick to the reality! It's important that your child knows what to expect. You could do this by reading books about caring for babies.
  • Involve them in your pregnancy. Personally, I think it's best to let your child know very early in pregnancy that you're expecting a baby. This way, your child will understand the changes in your body and your behavior and has the time to mentally prepare for the arrival of a sibling.
  • Have your child around at birth, but make sure they are informed and prepared about what will happen at that time and that they are free to go somewhere else if they aren't comfortable.
  • Involve them in the preparations for the baby's arrival. Prepare the baby's clothes together, go shopping for baby items together, let them pick out items for their little brother or sister.
Being involved in this way makes your child feel part of a whole, instead of seeing the baby as an intruder in his family unit. It prepares them mentally for a changed situation and makes them share the excitement you as parents are feeling. Children, even at a very young age, are entirely capable of understanding and dealing with the arrival of a sibling in a healthy manner, as long as they are treated with respect.

Helping your children connect
Where the mama gets a flood of lovey dovey hormones when the baby arrives, for the rest of the family, this small new creature might not be accepted and loved instantly.
Image: Starmama on Flickr
  • Don't expect too much. If your child isn't too fond of his new sibling right away, give them time to adjust. Pushing your kid to establish a connection will only have him turn in the opposite direction.
  • Involve the older sibling in the care for baby. Your older child can help pick out baby's clothes, help put on a diaper, give a massage...
  • Establish new routines. Create moments of togetherness for the whole family, but also schedule moments of one-on-one time with the older sibling. Daddy can take care of baby while mommy reads a bedtime story, and big sister can have breakfast with daddy while mom and baby snuggle a while more in the family bed. Think daily massage as a communal routine, or family bath time.
  • Teach the right gestures right away. Children, especially smaller ones, may have difficulties applying the right touch when handling the baby. Show them often what gentle touch means and don't get cross with them if they are a little bit too rough. Their coordination isn't quite as fine tuned yet, so it may require lots of repetition.
  • Last, but probably most importantly, allow your child to hold and carry and care for the baby. Forbidding snuggles, cuddling and holding will only frustrate your child, and if well supervised and informed, even a small toddler will be capable to hold the new baby.

 


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3 comments:

  1. Thanks for your insight! Currently, I'm only a mama of one, but I've imagined the excitement and stress of adding more. I love the line, "here the mama gets a flood of lovey dovey hormones when the baby arrives, for the rest of the family, this small new creature might not be accepted and loved instantly." I can only imagine how true this is!!

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  2. "Create moments of togetherness for the whole family, but also schedule moments of one-on-one time with the older sibling." This has been *so* important for Kieran as we've transitioned to a family of four. He thrives on special time - esp. with Tom.
    Great tips!!

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  3. Great points, Laura! I found with my first two kids that there was no real adjustment initially to a new baby. Both were 2-yrs-old when their sibling was born. But as they got closer to 2 1/2-3, sibling issues began to surface and your tips are right-on, especially in terms of involving big siblings in care and affection. We always try to focus on the "togetherness" of family, trying not to separate the kids too often and highlighting the importance of being together as a family.

    Thanks for hosting this lovely carnival!

    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling

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