I‘m the youngest of three, the baby in the family. My older siblings are fraternal twins and that meant I grew up desperately wanting to be a twin myself so that I’d have a playmate and someone with whom I could communicate telepathically (because you know, that’s what you get to do when you’re a twin, so my young mind thought). When that didn’t seem to work, I fought hard to simply be taken seriously as a viable playmate for my brother and sister, only they weren’t having it for the most part. Instead, they wanted very little to do with me. Undeterred, I pestered on and made them include me when possible. If that didn’t work, I ran to my mom who would make them include me and that didn’t always go over so well. I was confident that one day, they would cave to my cuteness, my wit and charm. My ability to belt out Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall word for word, my amazing high score on Intellivision’s Pitfall, or my fast footwork would win them over, eventually (I was the runner in the family and could whip them in any front yard race at any time). I was convinced that one day, they would sincerely like me. I was right.
(Home Video Caption: Gigi sings to her baby brother Avery while he’s in my belly)
As adults, we have that special bond that only siblings share–the one that provides comfort because you had the amazing experience of growing up together, the good, the bad, and everything in between. Through it all, I came to realize that my siblings are my friends for life, while other friends come and go, and that’s priceless.
It’s only natural that I want my kids to eventually have the same type of relationship. It’s a tad hard sometimes to imagine they would ever consider each other friends, given all the “she’s staring at me” arguments and giggling games of tag gone wrong until it’s just plain hitting each other while whining. But the truth is, they actually do play well together, for the most part, and they do already have something pretty special.
If you’re about to have a baby, I highly recommend doing these three easy things to start off on the right foot.
3 Ways to Build a Strong Sibling Bond
- Big Sibling Baby Shower: Everyone always makes such a big deal about baby showers and pampering expecting mothers, which is great! There’s never enough of that. But it’s also a great time to help build excitement among future siblings! Children should be celebrated as new siblings and there’s no better way to foster excitement than to host a big sibling baby shower. This will help siblings feel part of the growing family and give them reason to welcome and care for the new little baby. It doesn’t have to be a big affair–we basically hosted a park playdate about two months before I was due with my daughter’s friends, put her in a “Best Big Sister” t-shirt, blew bubbles, played and ate cupcakes. Through the planning of the playdate we enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk about what it meant to become a big sister, what it would be like, and how she was feeling. She loved every minute of it because she felt considered and acknowledged as a big part of this special time.
- Buy an Anatomically Correct Doll: Young children need a little practice before the new baby arrives. Buying an anatomically correct doll helps them visually and mentally prepare for another tiny being. My mom always tells a story about how when I was born, the first thing my older brother said when he saw me was, “Oh, you meant a baby, baby!” as if she was pregnant with some other type of baby. His young mind didn’t grasp that all the excitement was actually about a real baby, until he saw me. A doll helps make the notion more real and starts to teach young children that things are about to change. Additionally, young children can continue care for the baby doll when the real baby arrives–my daughter loved looking after “Baby Blue” while I was nursing or changing Avery. Baby Blue kept Gigi occupied and included.
- Have the Kids Share Bedrooms: Once your baby is successfully sleep trained, it’s nice to put the kids in the same bedroom. This obviously can be very tricky and make things much harder in many respects. Our kids shared rooms when Avery was a baby and we completely regressed on the sleep training because both kids were in the room (hence the note to wait until the sleep training is rock solid). However rocky, sharing a bedroom builds an early foundation of closeness as kids have to navigate sharing a space and all the things that come along with that through each developmental phase. My kids no longer share bedrooms, there is a limit to this notion, but I know they are closer today because they once shared a bedroom.
Now that my children are getting older, it’s time to revisit the notion of building a stronger sibling bond, adjust, and stealthily employ new tactics. They are still pretty tight, which is great, and I need to keep this momentum going. What’s worked for you?