Every parent wants their children to get along at the very least and be the best of friends at best. If you have made a number of trips around the sun though, you know that this is not always the case. The most common outcome is siblings who just tolerate each other and try to keep things polite and civil. The idea is to create an environment that encourages good, strong bonds. Here’s are some ways to help your children develop great sibling relationships.
Do not compare your kids
This is a sure-fire way to stoke the fires of sibling rivalry and build resentment. Phrases like “Your sister doesn’t…” or “Why can’t you be like…?” compromise the siblings’ attempt at building a strong relationship.
Recognize each child’s unique qualities
See each of your children as a unique individual, taking time to show them individually. Celebrate their abilities, for example, if one plays a sport and the other writes, praise each for their work.
Deal with the issue of fairness
Issues of fairness arise in all families where there is more than one child. Listen to your children’s complaints about fairness. Evaluate their concerns without feeling judged. If you are in the wrong, get back to them and let them know that things will change. Change accordingly. Always try to treat your children fairly. This will go a long way to strengthen the siblings’ relationship.
Children are likely to have better relationships when they share activities that they both enjoy. They do not have to have all similar likes, but you can help them find some common interests. Use oxytocin to your advantage by getting them to do outdoor activities and activities involving laughing, dancing, and singing.
Try to encourage one shared activity or playtime every day. Also, teach siblings to appreciate each other’s differences personality-wise and even interests, emphasizing the importance of respecting and even embracing those differences. Consider teaming them up for chores as well which teaches them to work together towards a common goal.
Time away from each other
Siblings can begin to feel like they are always together, always in each other’s space leaving them frustrated. Give your children some time away from each other. This is especially important during this pandemic when family members have been forced to minimize travel and stay at home for an extended period of time. Absence can indeed make the heart grow fonder.
Help with conflicts and disagreements
Conflict is expected and a normal part of development. Figure out what’s behind siblings’ conflicts. Teach them how to communicate with each other this includes using words as well as reading non-verbal cues like how to tell when other siblings are not enjoying an activity or not enjoying something they have done. Model for them how to communicate when they do not like something the other is doing and make it clear that the aggressor should stop when it’s pointed out.
Teach siblings how to respectfully disagree and the importance of respecting each other. No to putting each other down, not to insults even when fighting, yes to being mindful of other people’s space and belongings. Let them know that disagreeing is normal and expected but it should be done keeping in mind that protecting the relationship is key. These are important social skills to learn.