Ways to Encourage Good Sibling Relationships

Ways to Encourage Good Sibling Relationships

A while back, I talked about some of our family’s favorite books for introducing a new baby. Today, I wanted to offer some ideas and tips that may also help with this big transition of welcoming a new sibling. It’s such an exciting step but also a huge change for everyone in the family, so it might be nice to think of how we can make it as positive experience for everyone including any older siblings-to-be!

Willa and Linc in a crib

As mentioned when talking about our favorite new sibling books earlier, nothing can really properly prepare any of us for a new baby to enter our lives. However, there are definitely helpful things that we did to prepare, and things that we still do daily (and will continue to do) to encourage a good and positive sibling relationship! Every child is very much their own individual person, so of course these are things that we decided to do based on who we know our daughter to be, and what we felt would work best with her. Always trust yourself - you know your babies best. Do the things you think will help your child, and if something doesn’t resonate with you, feel confident in leaving it behind or amending it to suit your family!

Don’t blame the new baby.

I read this tip in an Instagram post when I was pregnant with my 2nd baby and once I looked further into it, it made so much sense. It sounds like something you’d read and say to yourself, “of course, I’m not going to blame the baby!” but I think we can fall into it more easily than we’d imagine! One example is saying something like “we can’t go to the park right now, I have to feed the baby”. The new big brother or sister feels that the new baby is preventing them from doing something fun, and so understandably they might feel resentful towards the new baby! You can see where it can result in the older sibling eventually feeling like they don’t like the new baby at all! Of course, they feel that way if everything fun they want to do is being blocked because of the new baby! I’m really glad I saw the post before our 2nd baby was born because it made me reconsider and rephrase the way I explained things to my daughter when the new baby was here so that we were not ‘blaming’ the new baby. Some examples below:

Instead of “We can’t go to the park right now, I have to feed the baby”, try “We can go to the park after nap”.

Instead of “We can’t be so loud right now, the baby is sleeping”, try “Let’s have some quiet time together, shall we read a book?”

Willa and Linc eating togetherOur family is one team - we’re all in this together!

This idea kind of leads on from the tip above. An alternative to “let’s have some quiet time together, shall we read a book?” might be to just explain why we need to be quiet. With our daughter, we’d explain, “When you are taking a nap, we all try to be quiet - just like how we all try to be quiet when your brother is taking a nap!” If our daughter has to wait because of the new baby before doing something she wants to do, we then make it a point to vocalize a time when the new baby will have to wait for our daughter. This brings in the idea that our family is in this together and we all work to help each other out. Our daughter has always done really well with explanations so navigating the new baby together with her as part of our team was really helpful. If our new baby son was fussing, we’d bring our daughter into the conversation. We’d talk about how babies cry when they need something and we’d try different things to help the baby calm down. Eventually, our daughter would start suggesting things the baby might need to help calm down, and she continues to look out for him in this way today! The idea that our family is a team and that we are all trying to get to know this new family member together seemed to really help our daughter build her own connection.

We have TWO babies now!

We tried not to take the attitude of “you’re a big girl now, you’re not a baby anymore”. Instead, we introduced the idea that we have two babies now! I think this language helped our daughter to not feel replaced. She didn’t feel like, “Oh I used to be the baby but now this new baby has taken my place” which could feel quite jarring, I’m sure. In our family, we embrace the idea that we have two babies, and that our older daughter is just a bit of a bigger baby so has learned more things, and she can help our smaller baby to learn just like she did. I think this also helps her feel like not only can she help her younger brother with new things but they can also be babies together, they’re in the same boat - fostering a good and positive sibling relationship between them!

Willa and Linc swingingIndependent play for the win!

We encouraged more and more independent play as the new baby’s due date approached! This might seem counterintuitive as you might be trying to get all your snuggles in before the new baby and yes, of course, please do cherish this special time! At the same time, try to encourage increasing amounts of independent play with your child as this will really help everyone once the baby is here. If your new big brother or sister is able to play independently, they won’t feel as much of a shock when you have to divide your attention, and it’s something you can schedule in throughout the day. Instead of, “I can’t play with you right now I have to breastfeed / change / rock the baby” you can try, “oh, it’s actually time for some independent play - look what I set up for you! After, we can play together!” If you’ve already introduced the concept of playing independently, your child will know what that looks like and what to expect - hopefully resulting in a happier version of everyone involved!

No pressure to love the new baby right away!

If a stranger walked into your home, and then everyone immediately descended on you to ask, “do you LOVE this new person? Do you? How much do you love this stranger? Tell me how much! Do you want to kiss this new person? Hold them? Come on, say hi, you love this person right?”, how would you feel? I’m laughing as I write this but it’s kind of how many people approach new older siblings and the new baby, isn’t it? With this in mind, we had more reasonable expectations when our daughter met our new son for the first time. We tried to avoid any pressure that she might feel, and allowed her to develop her own relationship with the new baby on her own time. We tried to narrate what she might be feeling and this seemed to help a lot as well. We let her know that it was okay to be unsure, and that with time she would get to know and love her little brother, but only when she was ready.

Willa and Linc playingPositive attention for all!

My babies are 1 and 2.5 years old and I am still doing this as of 1 minute ago! At the moment, my 1 year old is starting to talk so we are all beyond smitten with him - as you can imagine it is VERY cute! Through all of this, we are very mindful to always give our 2 year old attention as well, giving them both kisses and giving them both cuddles. We are always reminding them that if ONE of them does something that we are so happy and proud of, they are BOTH loved. We’ve done this from day one and I really can see that it prevents a lot of those negative feelings like jealousy, negative competitiveness, resentfulness, etc.

As I read through the above tips, I realized a lot of it is a shift in the mindset of how we viewed the whole transition. A lot of it comes from a view of respectful parenting, seeing everyone in your family as a whole person with valid thoughts and emotions! Everything I mentioned above continues to be in effect in our household, and we really are so proud of the loving, caring and close bond our babies are developing. Hopefully, these tips resonate with you and help you and your family, too!


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Meet Christine Han-Rutledge!


Christine is a mother of two with a Master’s in Early Years Education. She has always been passionate about teaching and working with the tiniest humans. Her goal is to provide her family with healthy and sustainable choices at all times, and to share those tips with you!

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