Is competition amongst siblings good, bad, indifferent? Have you noticed that there is a natural competitiveness amongst children be it your own or your stepchildren? After a day or two, a weekend even without the children – when you come back together, the need for your attention may be high or that need may always be great when everyone is home. So, how do you manage this without anyone feeling left out?
I admit there are times in our 7-person blended family when I don’t know who to look at and who to listen to, and there are those times when all the kids in our blended family speak at once – often around the dinner table or in the car. Personally this is where I have to stop the talk and manage who’s next, remembering to not forget anyone.
Consider birth order. It has been said regarding birth order that second born children are often the opposite to your first born, for instance if your first is scholastic then your second maybe be creative or vice versa. Naturally, the second born enters an already competitive atmosphere requiring they need to live up to as created by the eldest. As parents we ideally celebrate their differences and do our best to not compare. So what happens when you merge families and have possibly 2 first born children and 2 second born children or more now living under one roof all vying for attention and fairly so!! If there are now two “babies” in the family, both may need that special cuddling and love. If there are now two “first-borns” they might both want leadership opportunities. (These are generalizations, of course.)
Make one-on-one time with each child. I make certain that I show up for my daughter and cuddle her as my “little one” just as I do with my son (though he’s close to 13, he still loves it) – particularly at bedtime. This is my/our opportunity to be there with them one-on-one and really express our love and just how special they are. I tell each of them as I tuck them in that they are my favourite 5 year old boy/10 year old girl/12 year old boy in the whole wide world, and this never seems to grow old. It’s also a good idea to take each of your children out alone on a ‘date’ as such, giving them that undivided attention they long for. No matter how old we are, we all love this!
Elevate biological connections. After our children have said goodnight to the family, the biological parent is the final one to tuck them into bed and have a special moment with them before they go to sleep. This can be something they look forward to and treasure. Each of our children has a slightly different bedtime according to age and this allows each of the older children to have some time without the younger ones and gives each child a sense of privilege.
Celebrate each child. Do your best with your partner to showcase each of your children in a special way, be it respectfully ensuring everyone has that opportunity to speak at dinner or in the car and we all listen. By ensuring everyone has a voice, we celebrate a win a child may have had or all rally around to solve an issue one of the children has rather than the glory all going to the loud older ones (the eldest children can be quite vocal – have you noticed?). This doesn’t mean we should push the older ones down: as parents we have the opportunity to foster a sense in the younger ones that the older children are role models and thus are protective, smart and helpful. Make the little ones proud of the big ones by holding them up so. Meanwhile, ensure the younger ones have their artwork go up on the fridge evenly and have an even amount of framed photos that are placed around your blended family home, for example, so the littles are always noticed.
Hopefully this all translates into a sense of togetherness and that separation or exclusion does not exist in our family unit. This may then remove the unnecessary need for a ‘look at me or what about me’ competitiveness. Ideally, we can replace jealous competition with healthy competition, such as asking everyone in the family to do their personal best every time.
Written by: Kara Wright of Queensland, Australia is a relationship coach and mentor, and has a successful co-parenting relationship with her children’s father. Kara now has a blended family that includes her partner and his three children, and Kara and her two children. And let’s not forget her two step dogs plus the cat! Visit her personal blog by clicking HERE.