Family Life


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Sibling Rivalry – How to Tackle It

mother holding her two children

How to tackle sibling rivalry in your family         

Older children need time to adjust when their new baby brother or sister is brought home. If the new baby is the second child in the family, the older child who was the centre of attention before may find it hard to adapt at first. Curiosity, annoyance and pride are common feelings toddlers have about a new sibling.

A child’s age and development level is an important one:

·       A one-year-old child may sense that his mother is different, but won’t identify the baby as the source of the change

·       A two-year-old child is still very dependent on their mother, and will find demands from the new baby on her attention upsetting. More attention from the child’s father is usually helpful.

·       At three years of age and older, a degree of independence from parents exists, and friends and school have become important

Managing At Home               
There are several ways to minimize hurt feelings and unacceptable behaviour from your other children after the baby is brought home:

  • Greet your older children with enthusiasm when you arrive.
  • Include older children in naming the new baby.
  • Try to plan activities for your older children while you feed the baby. Some mothers combine breastfeeding and story time.
  • Let your older children show off their new sibling to visitors. Make sure you talk about your older children’s lives, too, so they receive enough attention from guests. Some parents keep a few small gifts to give to older children when visitors bring presents for the new baby.
  • Encourage your children to help care for your newborn. Depending on their ages, older children can help with tasks such as pushing the baby’s stroller, diapering the baby and singing to the baby.
  • Show affection to and try to spend some individual time with each child.
  • If your child still has adjustment problems after six months, speak with the doctor. 

Geraldine (Jody) Macdonald, RN, EdD, is chair of the undergraduate Nursing program, Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.

Published in March 2007

a man carrying two children

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