6 Ways to tackle sibling rivalry when three becomes four

So life is pretty great after having a child. You’ve found your routine, learned a ton of new skills, and have finally accepted that sleep-ins will not happen to you again until your blessed little angel hits the teenage years.

So you’re looking for the next challenge; you decide to have baby number two.

sad sibling with pregnant mum

But the second time around, things are going to be different. The first time it was just you and your partner, and you had the luxury of time and space to get prepared and organised before the baby arrived. This time, there’s also a little person who is still learning about the world and is used to having mum and dad all to themselves.

It can be a massive change for a child whose life experience is limited to a world where mum and dad are able to attend to his/her needs and wants as soon as they arise. When a new baby arrives requiring a lot of time and attention, it can be difficult for a child to understand why they suddenly have to share mum and dad.

To avoid sibling rivalry and ease the transition for your young family, here are some ways to help your child adjust.

  1. Let them get used to the idea of having a sibling

Start telling your child what is happening ahead of time. Let them know that mummy and daddy are going to give them a little brother or sister and involve them in the process of letting friends and family know. This makes it exciting for them as well and reinforces what a positive event it will be.

 

  1. Explain how the new family structure will work

Let your child know how important their job as an older sibling will be. Use positive language and talk about it regularly leading up to the birth so they can come to understand it for themselves. If you’re having trouble, there are some beautifully illustrated storybooks that can help with this.

 

  1. Make other major changes before the baby arrives

If you need to make major changes to your child’s life like move them into another bedroom, do so well before the baby arrives so that your child doesn’t feel displaced by their new sibling. Give them time to settle in before the baby arrives on the scene to allow them to become secure in their new surroundings.

  1. Get them involved in the baby’s life

Let them help you in preparing for the new baby’s arrival by asking them to pick out a toy for the baby’s cot. When the baby is at home, find ways for them to be involved in caring for the baby as well. Can they fetch wipes for you when your hands are full on the change table? Can they grab a fresh flannel or towel at bath time? Allowing them to do little things to help you can help your older child to feel involved in the family ‘team’. Be sure to thank them sincerely and let them know that their efforts are appreciated.

  1. Set aside quality time for just you and your older child

Take them to the library, or the park or even just stay at home doing an activity of their choosing. It doesn’t have to be very long, just 15 minutes will do. Use this time to focus on them and listen to their thoughts on the new baby. This will help to alleviate some of those behavioural problems that stem from a sudden lack of attention because of the focus on the new baby.

  1. Keep as much consistency as you can

Try to keep as much of your child’s routine as consistent as possible. Keeping the same bedtimes will prevent the effects of disruption (and preserve your sanity!).

And finally, don’t hesitate to call in for back up if you need it. Call on the support of your partner or other family members or friends to help you out at home when things get a little crazy. After all, young children use up a lot of energy and even with the best preparations, things can get out of hand very quickly when there is more than one small child begging for more from you. Having someone on standby to help can be a godsend for those days when nothing else will work.