For an older child who has been the center of attention for their parents literally their entire life, it is a huge dethronement to have another child come into the family. The toys have to be shared, the people who visit now give attention to this new person. The parents who were solely devoted to the first child now have this other being who takes center stage.
Many mothers share how the hospital stay during their delivery is the first time they had ever spent the night away from their first child. The older child is now the one who is moved into another room while the new born is in the room with the mother and most often attached to the body for frequent nursing. These changes and situations are a lot for a child to process and giving them support can help ease the sibling relationship going forward.
The biggest mistake parents make is in thinking that sibling rivalry is about siblings. It is actually only about their faith in the parents ability to care and provide attention to both of them no matter what and at all the times they need it. Once you shift the focus of addressing sibling rivalry from the siblings into parental attention, you will be able to see big changes in the sibling relationship.
If you live in a 3000 sqft house and I were to tell you that you need to share this house with another person you haven't chosen, it would make you territorial and confused - “why do I need to reduce my living space?”. However if I were to tell you we are adding 3000 sqft to this house and bringing in another person who you might want to spend time with, the prospect is intriguing. This figurative addition of space is actually the capacity to love. Children do not want to share the parental love they have. They want all of it, however love does not follow the rules of space, and has the ability to expand beyond the capacities we might assign to it.
We are able to show this expansion of attention and love by using Special Time - an effective tool by Hand in Hand Parenting, USA.
In Special Time, you set aside some time—from three minutes to an hour—and you play whatever your child wants to.
You say when and where you’ll connect.
And your child tells you how.
In Special Time, you refuse to be distracted.
You focus on just one child, while they run the show.
You do set the conditions:
For instance: “Special Time will be for fifteen minutes, we can go inside or outside, but no car today, and we won’t spend money.”
The rest is up to your child, and you’ll see them become very creative in directing things while the spotlight of your attention shines on them.
A sense of connection gives real power to your child. It grants them the ability to think, to cooperate, to feel good about themselves and the people around them.
Connection opens up avenues to learning. And it helps your child develop judgment over time.
Connection is important -
If you want your child to be a good friend to others. Build their sense of connection.
If you want them to be brave, nurture their sense of connection.
If you want them to be able to amuse themselves part of the time? Plump up their sense of connection.
Please also read our piece on mother’s guilt to work on the big feelings of a mother as she processes the responsibilities of creating this expansion out of thin air. There are a lot of residual feelings that may come up related to their own relationship with their parents and siblings. Old feelings of jealousy and hurt of not being seen or not being heard can actually harm this new developing sibling relationship as a lot of parents end up worrying about the first or the second baby based on their personal experience shutting the other out. To wipe the slate clean from their own childhood and to focus on being intentional about this new family the mother needs to invest in self care and not keep trying to provide ‘enough’ to both the children.
These dynamics continue with each subsequent child, with subtle differences based on order of birth. We have two amazing workshops coming up that address all these concerns -
The Second Baby Workshop
3 Experts, 4 Modules
> Emotions and Connections
> Post Partum Experience
> Baby Sleep Concerns
Curated and Delivered by
Divya Deswal -
Megha Mawandia- Family Therapist and Parent Coach
Weekday Batch Starting - 10th August
Weekend Batch Starting - 31st July