School-aged children must learn how to name and accept conflicting feelings about a sibling. These children must learn that they will need to cross many small streams during their lives, but they must always be aware that even a small stream after a heavy rain can become perilous to cross. By being aware of this danger most severe sibling rivalry issues can be avoided.
Learning how to recognize, understand and respond to jealousy and competition allows the school-aged child to learn how to build positive and supportive relationships. Learning how to name conflicting feelings is the first step to head off sibling rivalry. By responding to these feelings the older child is also preventing emotions from developing into unconscious drives that result in unhealthy and even risky behaviors. Unconscious drives can easily evolve into destructive behaviors such as tattling, physical or verbal aggressive behavior or the destruction of personal property.
The goal of every parent is to build lifelong positive and supportive relationships between all of their children. By being fair, not having favorites and not comparing children parents are setting a strong positive example of behaviors they support and endorse. This is done by focusing on individuality and not equality. By learning how to give and share in a non-judgmental and accepting fashion, children will be ready and able to reach out not only to sibs but also to others they meet and desire to develop positive relationships with.
Parents must paint a realistic picture of both the fun and less than fun aspects of having a new infant in the family. Infants are fussy, cry often, require constant attention and even require “smelly” diaper changes. By starting early and preparing the school-aged child for the work ahead you are more likely to find a partner in this endeavor rather than an adversary.
Parents who do not set a positive example run the risk of accelerating negative rivalry issues and supporting the evolution of negative behaviors. Parental responses must focus on being fair and never comparing children. There can be no favorites and unconditional love and support must be provided daily if your child is to have a secure sense of security. Weekly family meetings where the importance of love, unity, trust and positive self-worth are discussed can also be very helpful. It is essential all participants understand that everyone is entitled to an opinion and no one has the right to change or control the behavior of another. Parents must learn how to listen during these meetings, acknowledge the feelings of participants, sum up the situation and then support the development of a dialog between the participants. This is done by asking for solutions rather than providing solutions. Criticism must be avoided and positive behaviors supported.
The aim of a parent is to focus on prevention of rivalry rather than directing blame on a specific behavior or child. By learning how to arbitrate rather than judge parents are less likely to be drawn into a conflict where there is no right or wrong. This also prevents alienation and supports the ability of every child to resolve conflicts in a respectful fashion.