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Wills and Kate and the Second Child Syndrome

Living a purposeful life alongside older brothers or sisters

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


Considers the relationships within families (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.
  • Have available an image of a newspaper headline or front page announcing and celebrating the royal birth and the means to display it during the assembly.
  • Also have available the song ‘Forever young’ by Bob Dylan and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.


Leader: How many of you have one or more older brothers or sisters? Please raise your hands.

Allow time for responses.

I wonder whether, for you, not being the eldest child is a good or a less-than-good experience?

Reader 1: It does mean never being the first to walk, talk, read or achieve anything.

Reader 2: It can mean you get spoiled more, though, as you’re the younger one, at least for a time.

Reader 1: The second and subsequent children, however, never have their parents’ undivided attention. It’s always divided.

Reader 2: Often, though, you get the chance to do the exciting things in life rather sooner than an older sibling. Parents can be a bit wary with a first child; then they see how easy it is, so they’re more relaxed with a second or subsequent child.

Reader 1: Then there’s the fact that younger children always get the hand-me-downs, whether it’s clothes, bikes or other things.

Reader 2: Isn’t it good to draw on the experience of older brothers and sisters? They’re the ones who make all the mistakes and you can benefit and know what not to do!

Leader: I don’t know what your experience is, but there’s another baby just about to find out what it’s like – a royal baby.

Display image of newspaper headline or front page.

William and Kate have a new baby, a sister for George, and she will have a set of experiences not unlike the ones many of you have shared. She will have to shout loud to be heard and will have to share the attention of not only her parents but also the whole royalist section of the nation. She will probably have the opportunity to do many things sooner than her brother, however, and probably there’ll be less expected of her. I’m sure she won’t have hand-me-downs, though!

It must be very strange to be the second or subsequent child of a member of the royal family. For instance, there’s always been a huge focus on Charles, the eldest of the Queen’s children, which has left Anne, Andrew and Edward to find their own ways to claim some of the limelight. Similarly, Harry has lived a life in the shadow of William.

Sometimes this has been a blessing. They have had more freedom than their elder brothers to develop their own distinctive lifestyles, shown, for instance, in Anne’s showjumping career or the involvement of Harry in the Army. Equally, it’s clear that the pressures of life in the media spotlight have led to some questionable exploits. Harry, in particular, has never shied away from being a bit controversial, something of a ‘Jack the lad’.
So, what would we wish for this new member of the family, George’s younger sister?

Reader 1: I hope she is allowed to develop her own personality and doesn’t have to follow the age-old predictable paths of education and career. I hope she can be a unique addition to the family.

Reader 2: I hope she is allowed the privacy to relax. The media can be so intrusive and, usually, they’re looking for a bit of bad news rather than good. She should have the opportunity to learn from her mistakes in private, just like we do.

Reader 1: I hope she is free from the burden of other people’s expectations, both within the royal family and in the royal family-loving public at large.

Reader 2: I hope she is open to change, because the royal family’s role is bound to be different in the decades that lie ahead.

Time for reflection

So how might we reflect on these ideas in our own family lives? 

The chemistry of the relationships in any family can be complex and sometimes volatile. Thankfully, we don’t have to live in the light of the world’s media. Nevertheless, the principles we’ve highlighted today that affect the royal family are not so very different for us.

So let’s allow one another the privacy we need, and give each other permission to make mistakes and learn from them; let there be freedom from expectations and an openness to change. Then let’s see where we all are in 20 years’ time.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the safe birth of the new royal baby.
May she grow to be a unique individual who makes a special contribution to the life of this country.
May the media and we the public allow her the freedom to do so.


‘Forever young’ by Bob Dylan

Publication date: April 2015   (Vol.17 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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