When the Older Sibling Starts School

When a child starts school, it can be a stressful time for parents as well as their child; but it’s also difficult for their younger siblings to come to terms with their big brother or sister not being around to play with. Siblings, especially at such a young age, are often each other’s best friends; they spend the majority of their time together, play together, eat together, laugh together, and perhaps even share a room together. So when the eldest one “grows up” and starts “big school” it can often be a traumatic experience for the one/ones left at home without their bestie. There may be jealousy on both sides, the younger sibling wanting to know what the older is up to and join in the activities, however often the elder sibling can also exhibit feelings of jealousy because they want to be at home with their younger siblings, doing what they normally do. Neither wanting to miss out on the fun that the other is having in their absence.

With any new experience, there is an adjustment period; it may be days, it may be months, but eventually it will settle down into a new rhythm of things. During this time, parents can often be left feeling helpless or hopeless, but remember: YOU ARE NOT either of these things. Every family member needs to adjust to new circumstances, stand firm and persevere because in the end, it is worth the moment of upset. In this blog we will discuss some ways in which parents may be able to deal with this difficult time.

Here are a few ideas which may help:

  • talk about the upcoming changes in the months and weeks ahead
  • try to set up individual play dates so the siblings get used to having time with other kids their age
  • start doing one-on-one activities with each child (if feasible)
  • try to help the children understand what they’re feeling -understanding what’s going on inside can sometimes ease the upset
  • once the school year starts, make it a game with your younger child to try and flip an icky feeling back to a nice one. This serves to do two things; it distracts them from being upset at their sibling not being around, and gets them re-focused on more pleasant things
  • re-framing is key: instead of them thinking “I will miss my big brother/sister all day”, support your child to turn their thinking around to “it won’t be long until they’re home again”
  • have your younger children draw pictures during the day and share them with the older sibling when they get home from school; the school-aged child can show them what they did during the day too. 
  • talk with your children’s teachers to let them know what’s happening; they can help support from their end
  • make drop-off times a fun activity: sing songs together, or tell funny stories or jokes
  • read books about the experience together: try “Martha and the Bunny Brothers: I Love School”, by Clara Vulliamy. In the colourful book, big sister Martha is excited about starting school, but sad about leaving her little brothers behind. They start a special club to help them get through the changes.

At Angel’s Paradise we believe in encouraging autonomy in children, along with sharing and playing together. This may help children learn how to cope in situations where they are alone.


Source: Essential Baby Website