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The Big Sibling Blues

Stephanie Wicker

Stephanie Wicker

Child behaviour expert, parenting educator, counsellor and speaker. Stephanie Wicker has successfully guided families through early childhood for over over 15 years.
Created on Dec 02, 2018 · 4 mins read

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.

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.

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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?

The Toddler Behaviour Series

Visit my Toddler Behaviour Series and get access to my practical tips and activities for supporting your toddler through their early childhood developments. Through simple evidence-based solutions, you will ensure your child grows to be emotionally strong, independent and resilient – setting them up for success in the future!

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