A new baby—Mazal Tov!
At first, the talk is all about the little prince or princess and the birth story and who’s making meals. At some point, though, we start to hear: “And how are the other ones taking it?”
Because we all know about that problem…the inevitable “other side” of adding another little person to the family—sibling jealousy.
When the new baby comes home, the other siblings feel left out. They aren’t getting enough attention, and they might feel misplaced or question if they are still wanted. This leads to a variety of misbehaviors—tantrums, regression, wetting the bed, etc.
Many parents feel concerned about sibling jealousy even before the baby is born—How will the older siblings take it? What will happen when they are all moved up a spot, especially the current youngest, who will suddenly no longer be the “baby” of the family?
Trying to Make Sense of Sibling Jealousy
How would you feel if your husband came home with another woman and said, “I love you so much, and I want another one like you! I’m sure you’ll be great friends!”?
You would feel jealous and insecure, of course, and probably show your disdain in any number of ways. Well then, the logic goes, it makes sense that your kids are feeling jealous and acting out. It’s only logical!
But there is something fundamentally wrong with this logic…
An Incorrect Assessment Which is a Sign of the Times
There is a common misconception in our society which views parents and kids as equals in the family structure.
In the illustration above, we ask someone how they would feel if their partner would bring in another partner.
But there is a significant difference here—our kids are not our partners.
Different Roles, Different Goals
All humans have equal human value. Regardless of whether you are the president of a country or a homeless person, your value as a human is the same. However, the president of a country has a unique job that is vastly different from the homeless man’s. They are equal in value, but different in position.
The same is true in the family—parents and kids have 100% equal value as humans. But they have vastly different jobs within the family.
A Look at a Startup
If we had to make a comparison for illustrative purposes, I would say that a growing family is a little like a startup business. At first, it’s just the founders, with high hopes for a bright and promising future.
At a certain point they are ready to grow. They bring in staff and train them on how to do specific tasks. When they are ready, they bring in more staff, so that the company can grow even more. Each additional employee is an indication of the growth and success of the team at large, and with so many people to work with, the work environment becomes rich and enjoyable.
Of course, no illustration is perfect, and our kids certainly are not employees in any way! But there is an important distinction that this illustration provides—the very different roles that parents and kids play in the family.
Like the founders of the company, parents are both the founders of the family and the visionaries. As parents, they set the groundwork for the family to grow and make important ongoing decisions such as:
What are our values?
What community do we want to be part of?
What do we want our lifestyle to look like?
Kids, on the other hand, don’t have to make any of those thought-out decisions or carry the responsibility to provide for everyone in the family.
Similar to the employees in our illustration, children can enjoy the framework their parents have provided and use it to learn, grow and develop the life skills they will need later on.
The time will come when they will be the grownups in the family, but for now, they are free to relax while their parents shoulder the major responsibilities. Not least of which is to educate their kids, teach them good values and give them skills to have a meaningful life.
The long-term hope is that our kids will carry on those values to the next generation, each one adding their own unique imprint and legacy.
When we bring another child into the family, we are presented with another opportunity to accomplish this dream.
A New Sibling = Another Team Member
Siblings, at the very core, are team members in this vision.
Whether they are a day old, 2 years old, 5 or 15 years old, all the kids in the family share one common goal—to take what their parents have taught them, add their own life experiences and pass that on to the next generation.
A new sibling is another person on their level. For our kids, that really does mean another person to grow with, learn with and ‘be a kid’ with.
When we remember this, we can feel calm. Because a new member in the family is no threat at all; it’s a gift.
It’s all in our mindset.