The impact this major event would have on their younger siblings was somewhat underplayed. The parents were surprised and unprepared for the emotional reaction that occurred on the actual graduation day and continued for several days after.
Several factors come in to play from the siblings’ perspective.
-The room is decorated and the graduates are wearing special celebratory clothing.
-The parents are present in the middle of the day and then leave to go back to work.
-All the attention is on the older child with no defined role for them.
-Younger siblings often see themselves as benefiting from all family events and in this once instance are unquestionably excluded.
We have found taking the following approach has had the best results in helping them make a positive adjustment!
1. Describe in some detail what the classroom will look like for the event.
2. Ensure they understand that you, the parents, will be present for the celebration and clearly explain that you will be leaving without them. It helps if you are clear on what time you’re returning to pick them up.
3. If possible, have the sibling play a role such as giving the graduate flowers.
If appropriate, coordinate a change involving the younger child that is necessary anyway such as a grow up car seat.
4.Rehearse how the younger child can express their congratulations.
1. Treat them like a baby. Holding them, carrying them etc. If they are crying (which is a possibility) it is because they see themselves as not big enough for the occasion. So babying them will not make the situation better.
2. Buy them a gift. It is a maturing experience for a child to realize they cannot be the center of attention at every event.
3. Downplay any of the older child’s accomplishments and pride.
All milestones in any family require planning. You want to have everyone enjoy it based on their role in the event.