Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sibling Rivalvy: Give Children What They Need

"I was first!" "That's not fair!" "Mine!"

Parents with more than one child will likely hear this kind of exclamation over and over again. These are the yells of children struggling not to be left out, or making sure their siblings aren't getting better treatment.

Young children, especially up until age 5, are quickly growing in all the developmental areas - socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively. Part of social and emotional development for children is learning how to get along with others, handle and express their feelings, and being able to share and cooperate. For children in families with more than one child, home becomes the perfect classroom to start learning these social and emotional skills.

Having siblings helps children learn and practice how to cooperate, work out differences, and eventually understand that they will still get their needs met and are still loved, no matter how many children are in the family.

What's the Rivalry About?
Sibling rivalry is not new nor a serious concern. However, it can have lasting positive and negative effects on the relationship between brothers and/or sisters.

Whatever you call it, the "rivalry" or "competition" or "challenge" between siblings is quite normal. It is human nature. The bottom line is that it's important for parents to remember is that sibling rivalry is natural and it is usually nothing to worry about. You can help make things easier for you and your children by knowing what is behind some of your children's feelings and actions.

Arrival of a New Baby
When a new baby brother or sister arrives in the family, it is a big deal. It brings up many feelings and concerns that most young children are not aware that they have or aren't able to put into words.

Children are continually forming a sense of themselves, and part of that self-awareness involves being part of your family. Children want to make sure they are loved and that their needs are being met.

How children react and relate to one another will greatly depend on their ages. How they get along with each other and handle disagreements will also depend upon how the whole family operates. Your parenting and family patterns play a big role in influencing the way your children will relate to one another.

Depending on the age of your child when the new baby arrives, you can expect different reactions. But no two children are the same, and that is key in both raising your own, and in helping them deal with new siblings.

What Parents Can Do
We know that sibling rivalry is normal and to be expected. So, what can parents do to make sure the rivalry doesn't get out of hand and that all their children feel accepted and loved? There are a variety of strategies you can follow.

Prepare for New Baby
When a new baby is on the way, know that there will be changes. Make sure your expectations are realistic. You will have to change your family life. This translates into having a different amount of time to spend with the child or children you already have. Actively prepare your children for their new sibling.

Younger toddlers and some preschoolers may not really understand that a new child will be coming. However, you can still set the stage beforehand by talking about the arrival of the new sister or brother. For school-age children, you can talk about what it will be like to have a new addition to the family and include them in getting ready. Even if children are excited about having a new baby in the family, there will still be some challenging times.

Helping Siblings Develop Healthy Relationships
Once the baby is born, the fun begins. Here are suggestions to help siblings have a healthier relationship.
  • Try to understand how your child is feeling and thinking. Children do not think like adults. Telling them that babies need more attention may not make sense to them. Instead, make sure you make time for them as well.
  • Allow your children to voice their feelings and help give words to them as well. Being able to express disappointment, anger, and jealousy is helpful to children as they learn to manage their feelings.
  • Prepare your older child for when the younger one starts to explore. Help your child to develop patience with their younger sibling.
  • Allow siblings to try to work things out as they get to be school-age or older. However, never allow hitting, name-calling, or being abusive. Give suggestions to help them compromise.
  • Be careful of young children around babies. Young children do not have impulse control and may strike out and hit without any notice.
  • Know that children who are tired, hungry or not active are more likely to start fights or be difficult.
  • Let your older child help take care of the baby while you are present. Assign him a special role.
  • Do not compare your children. Comparing skills or achievements can affect a child's self-esteem.
  • Have older children teach their younger sibling a game or show them how to do something.
  • Give positive attention to your children. Some children pick fights because they don't know how else to get attention.
  • When children argue, listen to both sides. When in doubt, get involved.
  • Be fair to your children. Remember: being fair to children is not the same as treating them equally. Treat your children as individuals and in line with their age.
  • Encourage children to talk things out and compromise. Give them words to use to express themselves, especially young children. "I am angry." "My feelings are hurt." "I am upset because I can't do what Brian is doing."
  • Be an example to your children. How you and the rest of your family handle disagreements, anger, and other feelings will likely be how your children handle them as well.
As with anything regarding children, there isn't a cookie-cutter approach, but there are some basic principles that will help in most cases. Knowing your children as individuals will always help you to know the best approach for them.

Submitted by: Joanne Nelson, Project Director, MOCCRRN Mid Missouri

Reprinted with permission from “The Daily Parent”, a newsletter for parents funded by the Citi Foundation and produced by NACCRRA. Copyright 2008. NACCRRA, Arlington, VA. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Understanding the Social Emotional Health of Children

Emotional health provides the foundation for success at school and in life. One of the most serious and unrecognized problems facing our nation is the failure to meet the emotional needs of our children. These needs are neglected at home and at school. This neglect jeopardizes the future of the children and our society.

To address this issue, Dr. Gerald Newmark wrote a best-selling book entitled How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children. It was written to raise public consciousness of emotional health and to provide a practical resource to enable parents, teachers and child care providers to do something about it.

All children, at all ages, have five critical needs in common which stay with them throughout their lives – the need to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure. These needs are critical because when satisfied, they are the key to developing an emotionally healthy child. This knowledge serves parents and teachers as a road map to guide their actions in creating an emotionally healthy environment. Emotional health affects multiple aspects of our community.

Emotionally healthy children equate to productive, healthy, and engaged citizens. This is reflected through consistent work attendance, reduced poverty, increased altruistic and civic-minded behavior, and ultimately an increased level of self-reliance and self-discipline. These characteristics benefit all of us, as they support our society’s emotional and economic stability.

If you have any concerns about a child’s emotional health or you are concerned about a child’s behavior in your classroom, give us a call and we can help with strategies to work through many of these issues. We can provide phone support or FREE on-site technical assistance to help you in your classroom or with many of the disruptive behaviors observed with children.

Contact Barb Vigil (, Lori Meisner( or Trinette Brewer ( at 573-445-5437 or 800-243-9685 for more information.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Week of the Young Child Celebration

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, along with many early childhood facilities and programs, celebrates the Week of the Young Child from April 11-17, 2011. This is a week to honor young children and all those who make a difference in children’s lives. The theme to this year’s events is: “Early Years are the Learning Years.

This is a great time for early childhood programs across the state, including child care family homes, centers, Head Start programs, preschools, and elementary schools to hold activities to bring awareness to the needs of young children. Week of the Young Child is a time to recognize the importance of early learning and early literacy, and to celebrate the teachers and policies that bring early childhood education to young children.

Across the central region of Missouri there are over 1,000 various types of programs that bring some type of early care and education to children, birth to eight years old. Early childhood professionals need to work together to improve professional practice and working conditions in early childhood education, and to build public support for high-quality early childhood education programs.

There are many activities that will be held in the central region of Missouri to celebrate this week:
April 7 - Columbia Provider appreciation and awards dinner
April 14 - Jefferson City Provider appreciation dinner
April 14 - Mexico Provider recognition and reception
April 16 - Rolla Provider appreciation breakfast and child care workshop

Other activities happening this week are kite days, downtown strolls, library activities, parades, and articles in various newspapers across the area.

If you are interested in more information about any of these events or want to share something you are doing to celebrate during this time, please contact Joanne Nelson, Central Region Coordinator for Child Care Aware® of Central Missouri at, 573-445-5437 or 800-243-9685.