Question: My son is 6 years old. Since the beginning of this year, his younger sister (20 months old) started attending the same daycare as him. My son has been in this same daycare since he was 3 years old and he has no problem whenever we drop him off in the morning. But ever since the little sister started schooling with him, he would cry when we drop them off. He would keep asking us to come back early to fetch him and would repeat the same thing until we are out of his sight. My daughter adjusted very well to this new arrangement with very few crying episodes. She’s now happy to go there every morning. I’m worried for my son as this is a crucial year for him before he starts formal school next year. And according to his teacher, he would stop his crying after we left but would grumble whenever he is asked to do any work. We have always fetch him at the same timing even before his sister started schooling. But now when we fetch him, he will complain that we are late. I understand from the other teachers that his sister is the “pet” in the day care because she is the youngest of all and very petite and cute. My son used to love his little sister but now he complains that she is a bother. We tried talking to him, spending more time with him alone & even asked his granny & teachers to talk to him about this but it just doesn’t work. We even tried the opposite – scolding him & spanking him. Now my husband really gets frustrated & would ignore his whining. What should I do? Grace
Answer: Sibling relationships are one of the constantly changing realities of life. They love and hate each other depending on the age, the stage, and sometimes the moment. While you can’t always control the way your children feel about each other or the way they behave, you can survey your own actions to insure you are being fair towards both children.
Clearly, your son’s status at school has changed since his sister started. He needs to know (in mind and heart) that this is a special place for him with unique challenges that his younger sister cannot imitate. He needs a strong sense of his personal presence at school – that he is loved, that he has unique strengths and talents, that his being there matters to his teachers and his friends every day.
- Talk to his teachers about teaching to his strengths – Ask them to plan activities with his interests in mind. What does he like? Dinosaurs? Sports? Hype it up! Talk to your son about all the great things that his teachers are planning and be sure to remind him that his sister’s class is much younger and they never get to do the really cool stuff that the 6 year olds do.
- Use that “quality one-on-one time” at home to build positive school experiences. Weave home and school together with exciting cross-over activities. For example, give your son a camera on the weekend to take pictures to show his teachers and classmates. Or, let him bring memorabilia to school from places you visit as a family (places not necessarily of interest to his younger sister, like the discovery museum).
- Talk to the school about controlling their enthusiasm over your daughter at least while your son is present. It is not acceptable that your daughter become the school “pet” and your son become “old news”.
- Start preparing your son for this being the last year in this school and monitor any apprehensions your son might have about leaving this safe, familiar environment (where his sister gets to stay). Take him to visit his new school. Get books about starting a new school. Use what you already know about how your son adjusts to change to build a smooth transition. It isn’t always easy to grow up.
Be reassured that your son has enjoyed and treasured his sister up until now. These new problems may also arise because your daughter is now leaving babyhood and moving into childhood. Are you noticing more conflict between the children at home? Sometimes, you need to make adjustments at home when the younger child becomes more active and verbal. Your daughter is clearly becoming a person of her own now – one who probably knows how to garner attention and affection. Do all the positives you can to encourage your son. Then, feel free to ignore the whining. It’s quite all right that he is experiencing new emotional challenges in a supportive environment.
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.