changing the sibling dynamic

When a new sibling joins the family, parents are on high alert to make sure everyone adjusts as well as possible. I remember navigating that rocky road twice and it wasn't easy on us or the older sibling(s) welcoming a new family member. But eventually the kids got used to their new sibling and our family couldn't remember life before the newest member had arrived. Like so often in this parenting gig, the second you're comfortable, everything changes. 

Our three kids all get along, share a room, and are basically great friends. It's so sweet now that Chloe is old enough to join in the fun. But in just a couple months, Lily will be starting kindergarten and gone five days a week from 8-3. To help her be more prepared for full days at school (completely in French!), we've upped her days at preschool to 3x per week. One of the days she is at school with Oli, but now it's two days a week that she's off at school and the younger two are home together. And I'm already seeing the shift. Instead of the older two being inseparable, it's often the younger two. 

It's a great joy as a parent seeing your kids get along. It's not every waking moment, but it's more often than not. My question is, how do you avoid the siblings leaving another out? Our family dynamic is ripe for someone feeling left out. Maybe the older two (only 15 months apart) pair off, leaving out the "baby". Maybe the younger two pair off since the oldest is off at school (and Lily and Oli are a full two grades apart so it'll be two years before he joins her at school). Maybe the girls pair off leaving out the lone boy. See what I'm saying?

I've always wanted four kids to avoid the third wheel dynamic, that many of my friends who came from families of three experienced. Even numbers seems easiest to include everyone, but what about when you are a family with three kids? How can we work to avoid someone feeling left out?

Here are a couple things I think help our case:

1. Our kids are a peer group (meaning they're all very close in age), so birth order isn't as emphasized.

2. All of the kids share a room and we live in a small space, so they're really always together, the three of them.

3. We haven't emphasized big gender distinctions with play or hobbies, so the girl's aren't off doing one "girl's" activity, leaving out their brother. They all play dolls, they all play trains, they all play super heroes, etc.

But some sibling bonding is natural, and I'm sure it's natural for kids to bond with one sibling in a stronger way than their other(s). I just have no experience with this, having just one sibling. And I'd definitely be more comfortable with the kids having one sibling they were closer with if we had even numbers, or more than three kids.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts. //

Were you/ Are you closer to one sibling over another? Was/is this negative?
How did your parent's include all of the siblings?
Do you see this pattern in your own kids? 
What are you trying to keep the kids all close and not leaving out a sibling?


  1. This post caught my attention as we just made the decision to start trying for #3, after having been done at 2 kids for a long time. My two are 16 months apart, and are such great playmates. But I worry about adding another one with a big age gap (oldest is almost 4, youngest 2.5). Curious to see what other people say, so just following along!

  2. Anonymous25.3.15

    Sibling dynamics is always a topic of interest - so many variables, and inevitably, our opinions are strongly shaped by our own sibling relationships. I am one of five children, all close in age, and I think the most important thing I know now, as an adult with children of my own, in this: no relationship is static. They always have the ability to change.
    The relationships I had/have with my siblings have all developed and evolved and there is not one that I've always been closer to than the others; it has shifted. One of my brothers and I were extremely tight as young children (we're only a year apart), but had very little to do with each other for much of adolescence and young adulthood. And now, there is a closeness developing, despite distance and many differences. My sisters and I have had varied experiences of closeness, based on our ages, stages, personalities, interests, and geographic locations. When my oldest sister became a parent for the first time, she and I became very close though we previously hadn't been and though I had no children at the time. Another sister has no children and lives very far away, but she and I are extremely close, and have been for much of our adult lives. At some point in my life I shared a room with each of my sisters (and for a short time, both of them together). I also spent many nights sleeping on the floor in my brother's room, simply because I liked to. Every single piece of work I did in grades 2 and 3 is dedicated to my youngest brother. My parents put effort into developing our sense of family as well as our individual relationships with them and each other, but there is not one way to keep all the kids close, and some personalities are going to require more or less time on their own. For us, it came down to respecting each other's differences, loving each other for who we were/are, and celebrating what makes us a family. That is, my parents did their best to honour who we were as individuals and who we were as a family. Easy to say - much harder to practice (especially after age 12). But there was, and is, a strong sense of family loyalty for all of us. As we all moved into adulthood and further developed our sense of selves, there has been a greater appreciation for each other and, in some ways, more bonding. My children are young now, and I find myself raising them to be together, stick up for each other, forgive each other, love each other, and celebrate their differences and similarities. They are close in age and share a room. When they are apart for a day, they race to each other. But, shortly after, conflicts often occur. While I want them to be the best of friends, I know that, ultimately, that's not up to me and what I see now is not necessarily representative of their future relationships. I take a lot of comfort, as a sister and as a parent of siblings, in knowing relationships shift and change and grow.


  3. Anonymous25.3.15

    PS: ^ That was a little longer than I realized - sorry!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing you wisdom, K! I'm now wondering who you are!