Siblings can be wonderful additions to any family, but to a toddler, they may not be a welcoming site. As wonderful as it is to have a sister or brother, it can also be challenging. One of the mom’s in my RIE Parent-Infant Guidance Classes asked me to share a few ideas on how to make the transition easier. She has an energetic and enthusiastic 22 month old boy named Mike and an 8 year old daughter, Lori. Mike loves Lori, but sometimes doesn’t know how to share his love – he is sometimes too rough with his sister. Sometimes Mike goes into Lori’s room and throws around all her belongings, which of course is frustrating for Lori.
We brainstormed a few ideas in class that I think could be useful for other families as well:
How you can improve the relationship between a younger child and an older child?
1. You might want to call a “meeting” with your older child and brainstorm together.
• Allow any ideas to be spoken. Write all the ideas down. No editorials by anyone at this phase of the meeting.
• Let the child share their ideas first. When she/he develops an idea, they are more likely to put the idea into action later.
• When they’re allowed to talk about unrealistic ideas, they feel heard and understood.
• When all the ideas are written down, together choose the ideas that are possible to apply.
2. Plan a “practice” play session with both children, giving 20-40 minutes of your time per day for this activity.
• Create an environment that will be interesting for both children. Choose open-ended toys. For this purpose do not take toys that need a lot of gentle care and focus (such as board games, building etc.) Avoid heavy bulky toys that might be thrown or dropped. Perfect choice will be balls, doctor set, kitchen set, etc.
• Place yourself in the middle of the play area. You want to allow yourself to “shadow” (stay close to prevent hurting).
• When a challenging situation starts, do what we call “sports casting” narrate what you see. Narration will help children process what is happening.
• Model what they CAN do. For example, “I see you miss your sister so much….you can give her a BIG hug like this” (modeling a gentle hug).
• Typically we do not suggest showing children how to play, in this session you might want to model a few ideas on how to play with the items you set up – such as pretending to be a doctor or a sick patient.
In conclusion, sibling cooperation and collaboration will not happen overnight, it’s a life-long process that children will learn how to navigate with the adults being present, staying connected and modeling.
Wishing you all the best in the difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!