By Hilary Levey Friedman
I drove straight to the bookstore after leaving the ultrasound appointment where I learned I was having my second son. Being a book person, my first instinct is to look for a book for any new life experience, always.
I was surprised that the siblings section of the parenting nook was pretty slim pickings. At the checkout I realized I bought more children’s books about welcoming a sibling than books for me. In fact it was children’s literature that turned out to be the most helpful in fostering a good relationship between my two boys.
One of the books I bought that day was Big Brothers are the Best by Fran Manushkin. This sweetly illustrated book was perfect for us because it was about two brothers (she has another version for sisters). I found that it helped us to refer to the baby by masculine pronouns, and it was challenging when a book had a baby sister. My older son, Carston, learned this book thoroughly, though I must warn you that his favorite line, “Big brothers can yell, and kick balls,” always led to an active demonstration of both! My only complaint is that we read this book so often it actually came apart at the seams.
Another book that was very helpful is a personalized book offered by both Pottery Barn Kids and I See Me! (neither option is cheap, but the latter is slightly more affordable than the former). Offered for both brothers and sisters, The Super Incredible Big Brother by Jennifer Dowling, is great because you can put in both children’s names and sex—it is unfortunate it doesn’t accommodate names of multiple older siblings though. We used this book for the “gift” at the hospital (again, books are a central part of every family occasion) from Quenton to Big Brother Carston. I have a particular affinity for children’s books that rhyme, which this one does. Also, it comes with a medal that Carston still occasionally wears, over a year later.
I recently read When Mommy Has Our Baby by Rachel A. Cedar, which I know would have helped our family as well. While this book does have a Big Brother/Little Sister theme, it offers something the others don’t, which is a discussion question every other page to help the older child develop language to talk about new feelings and concerns. It is clearly written by a mom who has been there before. Even if an older child doesn’t want to read this story every night, the prompts will help parents know what to talk about with their kids for times when the book is not open.
I’m not the only one to think that reading books with your older child(ren) to help prepare them for the transition a new sibling will bring is one of the best ways to connect. In her new book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life, which will be reviewed here this Friday, Dr. Laura Markham suggests reading books with older children, and continuing to do so in the first few months, will help get the sibling relationship off to a good start. More proof that reading really is a miraculous activity for kids, in so many ways!
What books helped ease a sibling transition for your child, either a birth or other later life event?
Hilary Levey Friedman is the Book Review Editor at Brain, Child and the author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture.