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Sunday, March 30, 2008

You're Having a WHAT?

Siblings! Some people have them, some don't.

The relationship of siblings is as unique as each child. Some siblings love each other from the day they meet. They play together, learn together, and protect each other. Yet some sibling sets move through life with discord and disagreement. Regardless of the type of relationship a person has with their sibling, it is clear that the sibling connection has a monumental effect on a person's life.

To the parent, dealing with the relationship nuances of siblings can often be trying. This is particularly true for the parents who find that their beloved children have failed to form the loving bond that had been originally anticipated. Finding ways to navigate the conflict between siblings without instilling a sense of favoritism can be a true challenge to parents with multiple children.

The first real issue that parents encounter with siblings is the decision of having a second baby. Some parents choose to have multiple children and some choose to stick with just one child. There are valid considerations for each side of this decision. If you decide to have a second (or third, or more...) child, then presenting this information to your current child is the first important task that you will face.

The age of your firstborn child will determine the method that you should use when approaching the news that a new baby will be arriving. An older child will have a greater ability to comprehend the reality of a new addition to the family. However, an older child who has been an only child for an extended period of time may be more resistant and displeased with the news of this new addition. A younger child will not fully comprehend what it means to have a new baby. Yet the younger child will adjust the transition far easier in most instances.

There are several steps you can take to make this transition easier for your child, regardless of age. First, decide when to tell your child of the expected change. If your child is younger than 5 or 6, it is best to delay the news as long as possible. Children have a poor sense of time and the announcement of a new baby will be met with excitement and expectation (or immediate resentment and hostility) with no comprehension that the baby's arrival will be months away.

When your new baby arrives, your family and friends will be bringing gifts and goodies for the new baby. This may leave your older child feeling left out and jealous. Make a special effort to include your older child in the festivities. A child that is fairly young can help you open gifts and will even enjoy playing with the new baby's toys. There is no harm in letting an older child play with baby rattles, and the older child will feel as though she is being included in the gifting. You might also consider having a few small gifts set aside to give your child when visitors show up with new gifts for the baby.

Your older child should be allowed to be as involved, or not, as she wishes. Resist the urge to force your older child to acknowledge and interact with the new baby if she isn't interested. You will only increase any resentment if you try to force the relationship.

If the older child is interested and wants to participate, providing opportunities for the child to help you with the new baby is a good way to involve the older child and instill a feeling of accomplishment. You might also get some much needed assistance.

Remember to keep a sense of humor during this time of transition and remind your older child that you love her just as much, even though there is a new person in the house.