Sibling Rivalry

What are some of the tell-tale signs displayed by an older jealous sibling at the arrival of baby number two?

So, you’re approaching full term soon and baby number two’s impending arrival has got you really busy with all the errands before you’re bound for the confinement month. Suddenly, you hear your first-born’s cries and you realise that she has been out of herself lately, and these cries have been getting quite annoying ever since your baby bump started showing.

This – is what we call – sibling rivalry.

The main tell-tale sign of the first-born’s jealousy towards a younger sibling is throwing tantrums and other attention-seeking behaviour, such as suddenly becoming clingier to parents and purposely pointing out the faults of the younger sibling.

As parents, you would think that this is just a “phase”, but you have to realise as well that if mishandled, it could become a sticky situation for you when baby two arrives. Here’s how you can help ease baby one’s anxiety about her impending rival:

Firstly, the older child should be alerted during the pregnancy period that they will be expecting a new addition to the family. An idea is to give a gift to the older child and say it is from the “younger sibling”. This may help support the older sibling to reciprocate. Whilst it is overwhelming with two or more children, never neglect the older child even though they may be more independent.

Do not force children to be friends with their siblings. This may come in time, when they are ready, and through their own wishes. However, you can insist that they treat each other respectfully. One common oversight that parents often make is ignoring the older child when they play nicely with their younger sibling, because they expect it to be that way, and only pay attention when a problem arises. Parents must equally highlight and praise their older child when they exhibit positive feelings towards their new sibling.

As long as there is more than one child in the house, sibling rivalry is inevitable. It is common that the older child would not want to share or help in the care-giving of the younger sibling. It does not mean that there is something wrong with your children or with the way you are parenting.

It is important not to show favouritism. Do not compare your children to one another. By becoming more aware of developmental stages, you will also understand their actions and realise that it may not be directed against their siblings. For example, young children have a hard time sharing and have a need to “possess” before they can share.

These struggles can be positive for the both siblings. If managed well, they will learn to better deal with power struggles, manage conflicts and resolve differences, be more assertive, and enhance their abilities to negotiate and compromise.

Written by Dr. Joel Yang