Just a few weeks ago, I gave birth to my first baby – a little girl. With her birth, I’ve created the first half sibling relationship in my family. Through my own various step-parent, step-sibling & step-children relationships, none have included a half-sibling relationship.
My step-son is 10 years old and has no other siblings. We have only part-time custody of him every second weekend and split time on holidays, so we don’t have a lot of time spent as a full family to work through any kinks. My main concern with sibling bonding was that babies really don’t do much when they first are born – other than cry and poop – which isn’t very exciting for a 10-year-old boy. So, I did my research online and spoke with friends also in split families and we’re using the following tactics:
- Talking – We told my step-son early on that a baby was on the way. We talked to him about what he wanted to do as the big brother, we consulted with him about names and answered any questions he had as we progressed through the pregnancy. We also talked with him about breast feeding the baby and what to expect at night with the baby coming home with us. Really any of his concerns are like any sibling would have with a new baby coming into the family.
- Schedules – As a split family, we have a set schedule for when we have my step-son and he needs to know that his time with his dad is not going to change as the new baby arrives. We talked this through and let him know things wouldn’t change, so our job now is to keep that promise and show him what we said is true.
- Celebrating – Luckily, the timing worked out for my step-son to arrive with his Dad & Grandmother to pick me and his new sister up from the hospital. He got to bring me flowers and wear his new “big brother” t-shirt. I expected him to be hesitant but he was so sweet and wanted to hold his new sister almost right away.
- Positive Interactions – A friend of mine who introduced her new baby to her step-kids, made a conscious effort to remove the baby when he/she was too fussy and crying. Although this might not be a tactic for a traditional family or if you have a blended family where your step-kids are with you full-time, when time with your step-kids is limited, it does make sense to want interactions with the new baby and his/her siblings to be as positive is possible. So, actively making time when baby is happy with the siblings is a good plan.
- Parenting – Although it isn’t exactly the same relationship, when my step-daughter saw my young nephew getting the same rules as she had, I practically saw a lightbulb go off for her. When the rules for a new baby are the same as for the older child, you’re helping bond the family together rather than creating rifts. Also, as I’m the step-parent with a new biological child, I will be making efforts to keep interacting with my step-son rather than just focusing on my new baby. We are whole family and we need to keep that in mind
- Terminology – Growing up in my own split family, my step-siblings are all just my siblings. When it comes to the relationship between my daughter & step-son, I will only refer to them as siblings. I’ll always be the step-mom as my step-son has a mom already, but between siblings, there won’t be any dividing terminology.
- Patience – After a very successful introduction weekend with the new baby and my step-son, our second weekend had a lot of ups and downs. Even if it starts positive, that doesn’t mean it will be good ongoing – there are steps forward and backwards. Be patient and consistent.
So far, I’m pleasantly surprised at the positive interactions between my daughter & step-son. I can only hope that with the tactics above, we will keep building a strong family despite the challenges we face.