Steven Shelov MD discusses how to deal with sibling rivalry.
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Interviewer: Very common problem, you have a lovely child and you go out and say maybe we should have child number two. And the term is sibling rivalry. What is sibling rivalry and does it exist? Interviewee: Sibling rivalry -- certainly exists and it is a real phenomena. It occurs most commonly, in the age differences between three to six years of age difference between the older and the next sibling. But it is a real deal and can be very disconcerting and very disruptive. And it is not easy to handle. And it can occur in public and private. It can occur over the silliest little things -- a child has a toy that they like and the younger one gets into it or a space or a prize possession or grandma or grandpa tends to want to do a trip and the older or the younger resents it. You name it and siblings will find ways to argue about it. It is just a nature of the beast. A lot of it has to do with a sense of who is important and what is important, and do they lose something, the younger one that is when the older one gets something, and vice versa. They will square off in any number of different ways. So, it is not easy to deal with what is expected. It will get better over time as they are able to be more vocal, verbal and objective and have reason rather than just emotion. But it never really, I believe, goes away. It quietly sort of there and a lot of it is just “who is the most important in their life?” The worst thing you can say to a child is “well, you are my favorite child.” That is what they want but the other one does not want to feel the not favorite child. So, be very careful by making sure that all children are equal even though they do not necessarily feel that all the time. Interviewer: When you get a new baby, you keep saying, “the baby, the baby”. You would say, “I will be with you in a few minutes. Mommy is busy because I have to take care of the babies.” Is that a good tip? Interviewee: Yes, I think it is. I think that there is inevitable resentment on the part of an older child when a new baby is born. All of the tips of getting the older sibling involved and making sure that the older sibling has a positive experience with the young baby when it is developmentally appropriate -- have the older child hold or not take care of it, hold or be near, or help feed – all of those are important. But it will not get rid of that sense of the older child that no longer is the only show in town. It was nice being the only child. You know, you had all the things to yourself. They only pay attention to you. What is bad about that? Now, we are setting out the show of the limelight. And sharing the limelight comes with some resentment. Inevitable, you can feel that yourself. And those of you parents who have siblings probably can remember those days when life was perhaps nicer if you can remember back when, when you were young. And now, suddenly you have to share the limelight. So, it is tough being an oldest sibling for some reasons, it is tough being a younger sibling. Younger siblings feel like they want the whole limelight and they got this older, more verbal, more attractive, energetic, smarter, etcetera, etcetera. So, all of those things are going on at the same time. Interviewer: So, Cain and Abel was really probably a true story. Interviewee: [Laughs] Regrettably, it probably is. We could have handled that probably better in the literature though. Interviewer: Do you always make whatever you do as even as it can be? Interviewee: That is the goal and not easy especially when siblings, for instance, are the same sex because there, they really do want to be treated sort of differently because they are equal and they do not want to share the limelight and it is very important to make sure that you share your time, your efforts, your activities, your love, which is really what we are talking about equally with your kids. It will not take away sibling rivalry but it will help sort of minimize some of the high negativ