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how to encourage a sibling bond from birth

How to Encourage Sibling Bonding from Birth

Maybe you hadn’t given thought about the relationship between your kids as they grow older when you first learned you were pregnant with another child. Or maybe it’s why you got pregnant in the first place! Maybe it didn’t cross your mind until that first moment when someone told you, “awww…. A is going to love being a big brother/sister!” Whenever you first had the thought regarding the new relationship between your children, it likely stayed with you for the duration of your pregnancy. And for good reason! The relationship between siblings is incredibly unique, unifying and unbreakable. That relationship should be nurtured and cared-for from the moment the first sibling is born.

I was scared to death to be having another child, to be completely honest. Second-pregnancy guilt was real and I wasn’t sure how my oldest son, Corey, would take to a younger brother/sister. Corey loved other children and was highly affectionate, loving and gentle at his daycare, but we were afraid he’d think “all bets are off” when it came to another little human vying for mom’s attention!

So we read. We read and we read and we read. We read about how to make this transition smooth for everyone. We tossed around ideas of who’s going to be in what room (Corey kept his own room by himself), if Corey would still attend daycare while I was on maternity leave (he did, most days) and we discussed how much of a hand he’d have in helping with the baby (as much as he desired). But also, we discussed how we’d set them up for the best bonding experience right from birth. Strong sibling relationships were important from both our perspectives.

Our kids are now 7, 5 and 2 and we are really proud of the bonds they share. They really are each others’ best friends and though they do fight often, they’re the first ones (besides their parents) they all run to when they have “big news” to share.

It has always been a parenting philosophy of mine to raise children who have tight bonds with each other because I won’t always be around. I’d like to think the way we’ve raised them so far and the bonding experiences we allowed them to have as infants and toddlers largely paved the way for the tight relationships they share today. Here’s how we feel we influenced the bonds our kids share–

Involvement

We let the kids be a part of every step in the process of preparing for a new baby. They helped shop for and fold baby clothes, pick out pacifiers and nursery bedding and carefully selected the “best” infant toys for their new sibling. They took great pride in all of these things and even today will tell anyone who will listen all about how they’re the one who picked out so-and-so’s favorite toy/binky/blanket/clothing. This also helped reduce feelings of jealousy, as we talked through the process of what we were doing and why and didn’t just bring home an armload of new things for just the unborn baby.

Hands-On

We let our child(ren) be as hands-on as they could be, increasing their confidence as not just the capable children that they are but also the great big brother/sister they were going to become. They didn’t just pick out nursery bedding and furniture, they helped assemble it! They helped daddy by handing him screws and tools for the crib and then happily climbed in to help mommy decorate with the bed sheets and bumpers (back when they were suggested, unlike today!). Corey sat with me, handing me pins very carefully from a pin cushion while I hand sewed our new daughter a baby blanket. Our child(ren) weren’t just involved, they were DOING everything they could where it came to the new baby.

Hospital Visits

When the baby was born, our child(ren) was the first to visit. We got them right up on the bed with mommy and let them hold their new baby sibling. They cooed and swooned over their new baby and fondly rubbed their cheeks and head. We let them wrap “their” baby up in  the new blanket they watched mom make for him/her and let them hold the baby as long as they felt comfortable. When the experience became a little too much for them, my husband brought him/her to a quieter corner of the room and played play-doh or did something fun just the two of them. There was no pressure to constantly be near to or hold the baby. We let them do what they needed to regarding this new sibling in their own time.

The Early Days

Though it may have been stressful for me in those first days, we tried to let our child(ren) have a hand in everything that was going on. We tried to let our child have roles in everything from diaper changes, baths, even feedings where mom was breastfeeding. We let them bring us supplies, gently rub baby’s head with a soft cloth in the bath and hand over a burp-rag when baby was done nursing. Because they felt so involved, we didn’t have any issues with sibling resentment, jealousy or feelings of exclusion. It may have been a little overwhelming for me but I tried hard to not let that get in the way of letting our child feel included and connected to their baby sibling.

Fast forward several years and even now, my oldest son, Corey, feels a sense of pride when his siblings accomplish something new. He’s always quick to help me with putting on our youngest child’s shoes or coat or filling up our daughter’s water bottle for her. We like to think that all the involvement and encouragement each one of them had when another sibling was born is what sparked their early bonds and set them up for lifelong strength as siblings.

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