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Dealing with Sibling Rivalry in Playdates

Your first-grader has a friend coming over for a playdate, and she's thrilled. So is your preschooler: She thinks having another kid in the house means extra fun for her, too.

But here's the thing, says Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., a private-practice therapist in Princeton, NJ, and a mom of four kids: Your older child deserves--and needs--some one-on-one time with friends her own age. She won't get that if you insist on the "everyone play together" rule.

The ideal solution: Invite a friend for your younger child, too, if you can handle multiple visitors. "The whole gang may actually choose to play together part of the time," says Kennedy-Moore, author of What About Me? 12 Ways to Get Your Parents' Attention Without Hitting Your Sister. Otherwise, a good compromise is to allow your preschooler to hang out with the big kids for 20 minutes or so at the start of the playdate.

Talk to your kids in advance, and be clear that this is a special favor for your preschooler. She has to behave well: No whining, crying or pouting. To be included next time, your preschooler also needs to accept the end of "together time" graciously. "Rehearse with your younger child how to say 'Bye! Thanks for letting me play!' and minimize the tears by immediately steering her to a fun activity she can play with you after she leaves the older kids," suggests Kennedy-Moore.

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