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Anyone that has more than one child will no doubt encounter sibling rivalry among their children. Not only do children require the attention of their parents, they desire it as well. Immediately following the birth of a child, the bonding process begins between the child and the parents. The child quickly becomes the center of his or her parent’s world. But then another child comes along and things are not the same.

Of course the first child still gets love and attention from the parents but now the child has to share his or her parents. The new baby needs more attention and the older child may have to wait until the needs of the younger child are met. The firstborn child may show dissatisfaction with the new circumstances in various ways. Crying, temper tantrums or feigning illness are just a few possibilities.

In an effort to help a child through the transition of accepting a new sibling it is helpful to include the child in caring for the baby if possible. Let the child be nearby when feeding or changing the infant so that the older child doesn’t feel ignored or excluded. Involving the child in even the smallest activities can help strengthen the bond with the new sibling, promote acceptance and lessen the possibility of rivalry.

If the firstborn child is still quite young most parents will worry if the child wants to help with the care of the infant. They fear the child may try to pick up the baby and accidentally cause injury. These concerns are understandable and valid. You can let the child assist in caring for the baby whenever you or another adult is present. Depending on the child’s age, you will be able to explain how he or she will best be able to help you and the baby.

As children grow and change, so does the issue of sibling rivalry. Two typical problems that most parents encounter is the older child feeling that the younger gets away with more unacceptable behavior and the younger child feeling that the older one has more privileges. One child may start to tattletale on the other. The older child may bully the younger. If the older child is a boy and the younger a girl you may hear familiar complaints such as: “She always gets her way because she’s the baby and a girl,” or “You always believe him because he’s the oldest.”

Of course there is rivalry between two or more siblings of the same sex as well, sometimes even resulting in aggressive or physical altercations in older children and teens. It is certainly no surprise that two children born of the same parents can be as opposite as night and day. They may have completely different personalities that make it difficult for them to get along with each other. Although some siblings have differences that make them seem more like strangers than relatives, they still have a sibling bond that ties them together. They may have superficial conflicts, yet they are usually quick to defend and protect each other if the need arises.

As parents, we can only do our best to treat our children fairly, to teach them right from wrong and to respect their individuality. Each child is a unique person with special gifts and talents. It is up to us to nurture those gifts by not only providing for their physical needs, but for their emotional and spiritual needs as well. One way to lessen the heat of sibling rivalry is to encourage open honest communication between our children. When family members can discuss their feelings with each other it is much easier to find amicable solutions to any problems that may arise. When our children are young we teach them to share their toys; as they grow older we teach them to share their greatest gift – themselves.