Sibling rivalry. This very phrase can make me squirm. I envision off-putting images of my children battling for attention, love, and acceptance.
Our biggest troubles with sibling rivalry began with baby number five (yes five, of seven). The older siblings were 7, 6, 5, and 4 years old. We really had not had any problems with bringing home a new baby until number five was born. It was particularly troubling when I realized the older children thought of their new sister as a nuisance who cried all of the time was the the center of attention from everyone. My 4-year-old began to say disheartening things like, "I don't like her anymore" and "Can we give her back?" When company would leave, he was more than eager to start gathering her items together so she could go with them, saying, "Aunt Jenny, Samantha is leaving with you, right?"
What can you do, how do you get them all to understand that Mom and Dad loves them all, and that nothing has changed?
Let your children help with the baby. Kids love to feel important and needed, especially when it comes to helping Mommy or Daddy. Have cuddle sessions between the older children and the baby (with you close by, of course). Have your child play with the baby and read to her. We had an art exhibit just for the baby; I explanned to the children the theory of Red, White and Black, how those colors are stimulating to the baby's vision. We got out the paint and had one of the most incredible afternoons ever. (They remembered this Family Tadition for the following two babies). After the "masterpieces" were finished, we decorated her room. I tried to include them all in taking care of her. Before long, my 4-year-old was her protector and, as he put it, "her laugh maker." They all felt important and part of the team.
My husband and I had plenty of one-on-one time with each older child. We also made sure to not let the new baby interfere with their sports schedules -- we didn't want to create any resentments there. Most activities were something as simple as sitting on the porch swing reading a book or playing a video game together or having fun snack sessions.
As Samantha got older, the bigger kids enjoyed teaching her to crawl, walk, talk, and swing. They loved being the older "know-it-all Big Brothers and Sister."
Maintain routines. Children, like the rest of us, are creatures of habit and find comfort in routines. Keep structure in your older children's world. Sports are very important to my children, and in our household, at least one parent was at practice and games; 4-H, homework, chores and bedtimes still went on as scheduled.