Tips to Navigating Sibling Relationships

Siblings reading together on a bed.

As a parent, introducing a new baby into the family is an exciting time, and you want your older child or children to be as excited as you are. Your child’s first friends are his siblings, so it is a meaningful relationship you want to nurture. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship between siblings, and navigating sibling relationships at home or daycare is a normal part of development.


How to Navigate Sibling Relationships

The transition from one child to two children is rough on you as the parent, but it’s often hard on an older sibling as well. An infant demands a lot of attention from you, and you may see your older child act out to receive attention. This behavior may even appear at daycare. You can do some things to foster a healthy relationship between your children from the start and any time they’re not getting along.

Parents and daycare teachers can help foster relationships between siblings by encouraging your children to do nice things for each other. It is important to try to divide your time and attention to ensure that each child feels special and loved in the family.


Spend One-on-One Time with Each Child

Each child needs to feel loved and unique. With one-on-one time, they won’t feel they have to compete for your attention and affection. It is important that each sibling has their own time with you and is able to do things without their siblings. This is especially important when an infant is welcomed into the family.

  • Make time for each child regularly.
  • Give affection to each child often.
  • Focus on their individual talents and interests.


Involve Siblings Throughout the Day

To help your older child feel involved and not separated from either you or the infant, make sure to involve her during the daily tasks.

  • During tummy time with your infant, bring the older sibling down to encourage your infant.
  • Older siblings love to be in charge, so enlist their help during diaper changes or feeding time with your infant.
  • Join your older child during playtime, letting your infant watch.


Recognize When You See Good Behavior

When you notice your children behaving well, make sure to give positive feedback. Your words tell your children they’re modeling good behavior. Rewarding your children with high fives, hugs, or a treat when being kind will encourage continued good behavior. Some examples of praise are:

  • “I like how nicely you are playing together.”
  • “That was very kind of you to share your stuffed animal.”
  • “You two worked as a team to clean up; great work!”


Coach Your Children During Problem-Solving

As a parent, you are your children’s coach when it comes to problem-solving. You are teaching them the skills needed for managing feelings and playing fair. Here are some of our favorite strategies:

Help your children find ways to express their feelings with calming activities when they’re frustrated.

  • Suggest ideas to solve problems, such as sharing or taking turns.
  • Arrange a play date to help your children play well with others.


Create Separate Spaces for Each Child

Children become protective of you, spaces, and their toys. They know what is theirs, and while sharing is developmental, if they’re willing to share often depends on the item or mood.

  • Designate a sharing basket to put toys or items that are purchased for both children.
  • Use a drawer or a shelf for each child to put special items, like a unique art project, to avoid getting messed up or touched.
  • Make sure they have their own time to spend with toys or friends by themselves.

Siblings watching a movie on a couch.

Be Good Role Models

As parents, daycare teachers, and family members, it is important to be good role models to children. Daycare teachers know what to model and what not to model to teach developmental skills like kindness, honesty, and sharing. Your children will learn from them as well.

Most importantly, the way you, as parents, resolve problems sets a strong example for siblings. Allowing your children to see you say sorry will teach them to apologize. Sharing your hugs or snacks with your children to show them how sharing is caring.


Proactively Anticipate Fighting

Siblings are going to fight, as it is part of the relationship. By anticipating when, where, and what they fight about, you can try to set the environment up to lessen the opportunity for them to argue.

  • Make sure you have enough toys, maybe even two of the same ones.
  • Have your children play close to you so you can step in to redirect when you hear a fight starting.
  • Set up different and separate activities or play areas when you need to be away from the children.


Set Family Rules

Rules let children know what behavior is okay and what is not. When you put family rules in place, it is easier to remind your children of the expectations of how to treat each other.

Keep in mind:

  • When children are involved in setting up your family rules, they are more likely to remember and respect them.
  • Rules should be somewhere everyone can see them.
  • Follow through every time children bend or break the rules.


Listen to Your Children

Being an older sibling can be frustrating. When an infant is added to the family, they have to share you, their daycare, and their toys. Allow your children to share their feelings with you.

  • Respond that you acknowledge how they are feeling.
  • Share a story of your childhood to show you can relate.
  • Use family dinners or family meetings as a time to talk and listen.


Do Things as a Family

For sibling relationships and your family’s overall health, make sure to do things together as a family. It is important to make sure all of your children are home from daycare or playdates before doing activities together. Leaving someone out can lead to sibling tension later on.

This family time is an excellent way to reduce conflict as your attention is on your children and the activity.

  • Put a puzzle or play a board game together.
  • Go to the movies and share popcorn.
  • Spend time at a park with a picnic or kites.


Whether you work full-time outside of the home, in the home, or are a stay-at-home-parent, you’re likely to experience your children learning how to navigate their relationship as siblings.

Breakie Bunch works to guide and teach your children through every step of their development and is available for any questions you may have. From infant and up, parenting is a challenge. You do not have to tackle it alone! We are here for any daycare needs and guidance.