4) Help your toddler make friends before the baby is born.
Children who have at least one good friend get along better with a new sibling, Kramer has found. The qualities that are most important in a friendship include the ability to initiate and take part in fun and positive play, to manage conflict and other negative emotions and to “pretend play,” which requires taking another’s perspective—good training for getting along with a sibling.
5) Don’t separate the children.
Because they expect conflict or worry that the older child will harm the infant, some parents keep their children apart. Doing this may keep the peace, but it won’t help kids develop a close relationship. That’s not to say you should let your toddler steamroll your infant. But rather than practicing avoidance, encourage your older child to help bathe, feed, dress and play with the baby and curb your reflex to constantly warn him about hurting the baby.
6) Teach your child how to interact with the baby.
Young children can be shown how to initiate play with babies, what toys to play with and how to keep things safe. Promote positive interactions by saying to your older child, “He likes it when you do that,” or “Look at him laugh at you.” You can also teach your child how to say he doesn’t want to play with the baby.
7) Don’t put too much stock in regressive or negative behaviors.
These usually ease up within six months. If your child starts acting like a baby (or worse) again, don’t try too hard to change his behavior. And don’t overlook the obvious: Make sure your older child feels secure in your love for him. If he seems upset by the newborn, spend time alone with him, Dunn advises. Remember, too, that the way you and your partner treat each other serves as a model for how to get along with another person.
Myths of Sibling Rivalry
Here are some conventional pieces of advice that have been debunked in research conducted by Laurie Kramer, Ph.D., and others:
Myth: You shouldn’t let your older child watch you breastfeed.
REALITY: Seeing you nurse is unlikely to create negative reactions.
Myth: You should de-emphasize the importance of the new baby in comparison to the older child.
REALITY: Doing so could set up a competition and make your older child feel entitled to special treatment.
Myth: You should tell your child, “We love you so much, we wanted the chance to love another baby.”
REALITY: How would you feel if your significant other said, “I love you so much, I want another partner just like you?”