According to a new study, rivalry between brothers and sisters can be a good thing when they are toddlers and it can have a positive effect on their development. Cambridge University carried out the study over a five year time span and found that of the 140 children studied, their cognitive and social development was enhanced if they were a sibling.
The research looked at the younger of 2 siblings in various environments: alone, with the family, with friends and at school. Their language, memory, planning skills and inhibitory control were studied and found that the younger sibling had a better social understanding thanks to the teasing of older brothers and sisters. 80% of children have siblings.
Pretend play was very interesting to the study authors, as it found that the younger siblings who entered into pretend play, games that often lasted in different sessions over a few days, were able to articulate, discuss their thoughts and feelings much better than those who didn't.
They also found that sibling bickering was a "useful" tool and that its the start of a skill to resolve disagreements in later life although they did say that sustained sibling rivalry into school years could be detrimental. Relationships change over time, that is natural, but the way that siblings are natural allies is a beneficial thing.
Having your first child is the most amazing experience for you, but having further babies has a huge impact on older siblings. Each addition to your family changes the family dynamic in a fairly sudden way - just as your children have settled into understanding the dynamic of the family, suddenly another baby comes along. Such is the nature of babies that they require a lot of attention and seem to steal the attention away from older siblings.
The Introduction of a new baby to the family should start in the later months of pregnancy. You don't want to tell very young children that they are going to have a brother or sister too early because pregnancy to young children must last an eternity, and they may have trouble understanding how far off their brother or sister is! However, during the last couple of months of pregnancy, start to tell them about the imminent arrival, and involve them at prenatal checks. Have them touch your tummy and feel the new baby.
The time around the birth can also be confusing for siblings - you are probably a little stressed with anticipation and the worry about how the birth will go, and younger children will sense this. Then you may be away for a few days in hospital and this too can be confusing for young children. All of a sudden they maybe taken into the hospital to see you again, and to meet their new brother or sister. Hopefully by now you have prepared them, and enthused them into the excitement of having a new baby to take home. Take gifts along that your older children can take for the baby, and buy some gifts that the baby gives back in return - this will help to establish a special and caring relationship between siblings. Have your children hold the new baby if they want to, and make it clear that the baby is for all of you to share and an equal part of the family.
In the months following birth, older siblings may display emotions of jealousy as your attention is diverted to the new arrival, this is the dreaded 'sibling rivalry'. Ensure that you continue to spend quality time with older siblings, and have them play an integral role in bringing up the new baby. Have them play an active role, as far as they are capable, in changing the baby's bottom, getting the baby dressed and with feeds. Young children especially will delight in being able to mother soft toys or dolls in the same ways that you are mothering your new baby. Most of all, make sure that your children are aware that this new addition to the family is here to stay, and not just on temporary loan from the hospital! The sooner they get used to having a sibling the better!
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