A certain dose of rivalry is healthy in brothers and sisters since it pushes self-assertiveness in children. Some studies have even demonstrated that encouraging equality in your children can nourish rivalry!
First of all, let’s make one thing clear: no parent can love his children exactly the same way. It does not mean loving one of your children less and it is not a crime. It is just reality. You love your children differently, that’s all! The same thing goes for your brothers and sisters or your friends. Knowing this, you can expect to be unfair sometimes when it is time to rule out an argument and that is why you must be careful and solve problems… not create them.
In addition, there is no ideal age gap between children. If your children are close in age, they might be very united but also very jealous. If the age difference is very important, your children will have less and less things in common as they grow up. A good age difference is considered to be between 2 years and 3 years and a half.
Preparing your child for the arrival of a new baby
The first signs of jealousy often appear after the birth of the second child. However, there are ways to help this major life change go smoothly with all the family members. During pregnancy, it will be important to have multiple discussions with your child to explain that the new baby is not a threat and that you will always love him just the same. Take this time to talk about how he was as a baby, take out photo albums of when your child was born or watch homemade videos. Constantly hearing that you love him will help your child feel secure about the new baby. If possible, take your child to visit friends who have recently had a baby; this will help your little one to get a better picture of the reality to come.
Even if it is recommended to congratulate your first born on being all grown up, making the bed or brushing his teeth, be careful not to push your child to grow up too fast. When your child will see his new sibling spending a great amount of time in your arms, this might urge him to regress to anterior stages of maturity in order to become a baby that will have your undivided attention.
In a perfect world, brothers and sisters would always act like... brothers and sisters! Isn’t it ironic to describe a best friend as a sister or brother when in reality, siblings often put many years into getting along well? Some siblings can even grow up to become adults who go their separate ways without truly having built a strong bond with each other. Many different factors come into play when evaluating rivalry between siblings: the gender, their place in the family and the age gap can impact their behaviour.
Under 7 years old
Your child is self-centered and does not share easily. He is egocentric and does not understand that a borrowed toy will be given back later, which may lead to crying and tantrums.
Between 7 and 10 years old
This is the “You are not my friend if...” phase. Your child might use this phrase whenever he feels upset or annoyed. At this age, you can explain to your child that blackmailing will only worsen the relationship and that he needs to think of better solutions to display his unhappiness.
Between 10 and 14 years old
At this stage in life, your child can have very ambivalent behaviours, from lovingly hugging his brother or sister one minute, to insulting them the next minute. At this age, your child knows what is fair and what is not. Therefore, give him a chance to solve his own conflict and make an intervention only if the situation worsens.
After 14 years old
Here comes adolescence with its share of hormonal, social and family changes. Your child is slowly learning to become an adult. In doing so, he will develop moral principles and a personal ethic based on what he has been taught from a young age. At this age, your teenager may act more set aside, which may cause of conflict. However, it is (for the most part) temporary.