Whoever coined the phrase "love-hate relationship" was probably talking about siblings. We all want our children to get along, but even the best plans sometimes go awry. Sibling rivalry often starts before a second child is even born, and it continues as kids compete for everything from toys to attention to you. It can be hard to promote harmony. But the solution begins with you.
Here's what our Mommy M.D.s — doctors who are also mothers — do to keep the peace.
"The first two weeks after my daughter came home from the hospital, my son had a rough time," says Michelle Hephner, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, a mom of a son and daughter, and a family physician in private practice with Central DuPage Physician Group in Winfield, Illinois. "He had just turned 2, we had moved into a new home, and I was home during the day for the first time that he could remember. After about two weeks, though, my son adjusted to his new routine, and he was his happy self again."
"The biggest challenge with my second son was to try to make his older brother not feel left out," says Sonia Ng, M.D., a mom of two sons; a pediatrician; and a sedation attending physician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Pediatric Care, the University Medical Center at Princeton, and the Pediatric Imaging Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. "My second son was a very easygoing baby, so caring for him was pretty simple. But every time the baby needed me, my 8-year-old son would come over and say that he needed me. I'm sure it was sibling rivalry.
"I tried to avert the sibling rivalry by taking my older son to a community class that introduces children to the care of babies and shows them how they can participate in the care of a little brother or sister," Ng continues. "The instructors pointed out opportunities that older siblings might have to be the helper. In the end, the kids received a T-shirt and certificate for being an outstanding older sibling. I try to equalize everything. I offer my sons equal shares of everything, and if the little one doesn't want it, his brother can have it. I also tell my sons very often that I love them."
"When my second baby was born, my oldest was 21 months old. I was very successful in helping my first child welcome the baby," says Lesley Burton-Iwinski, M.D., a mom of two grown daughters and a grown son, a retired family physician, and an educator with Growing Peaceful Families in Lexington, Kentucky. "She tells me today that she never remembers feeling left out or jealous. Before my second baby was born, I read a book called 'Welcoming Your Second Baby' by Vicki Lansky. I implemented a few pieces of her advice. The most important thing was that when my baby cried, if I was occupied with her sister, I never rushed away from my older child to tend to the baby. When the baby cried, I'd tell my older daughter: 'Listen to that! Can you hear the baby? Let's finish this up, and we'll go see what she needs.' Then we had closure on what we were doing, and together, we went to see the baby.
"Also, I included my older daughter as often as possible when I was tending to her sister," Burton-Iwinski continues. "For example, my older daughter loved to get the diapers out of the changing table. She'd put a diaper on the floor, smooth it out with her hands and say, 'Mommy, I'm making this nice and flat for you.' I welcomed any help that my daughter could give me." When my son was born, it was a challenge to keep him safe from his very loving, very involved 'other mothers.' I think my younger daughter would have hugged the very life out of him with her loving exuberance if I hadn't been there to make sure she let go long enough for him to breathe. For his part, he took it like a champ."
Mommy MD Guides-Recommended Product: How to Be a Great Sibling Kit
Looking for a gift to give your child before his or her sibling is born? Check out the How to Be a Great Sibling Kit.
This kit was created by Mary Mason, M.D., MBA, founder of the Little Medical School. It's designed to make big brothers and sisters feel important and get them excited about their new baby sibling. The kit features an adorable plush baby — light and dark skin available.
The set also includes a real, working stethoscope. The perfect prop for medical role play, kids can listen to the baby's heart — and their own — and get hands-on experience with a real scientific tool. Perfect for STEM learning and play.
The perfect job for big brothers and sisters, siblings can help keep the baby safe with the included choke tube tester. Objects that fit through the tube must be kept out of the baby's reach.
This imaginative role-play set makes the perfect surprise for your soon-to-be sibling. You can buy the kit on Amazon for around $30.
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Bessi at Pixabay