Today Facebook shared a memory on my timeline. It was a picture of my sister and me. I’m one of the lucky ones who share a beautiful relationship with all my siblings. Which obviously doesn’t mean we don’t fight or that we often make each other cry with the regular dose of verbal sarcasm.
But all said and done; we are always there for each other through thick and thin. And that makes me realise that parents play a crucial role in nurturing healthy sibling relationships. It is their efforts right from the beginning that helped us form these strong sibling bonds.
There is a lot of modelling, patience and perseverance involved as parents set out to lay the foundation for these healthy relationships. Here are a few tips that might help you along the way.
Encourage Co-operative Playtime
It’s vital that siblings spend time together in a shared space. Their play-area can become a shared area. Though it might lead to many fallouts also. But it’s best to let them solve it on their own. Adults should avoid stepping in unless necessary. As parents, you can always guide them into fair resolutions. The catch here is, the play area should not involve any screens; otherwise, the tiff escalates into a brawl within seconds.
Respectful of Differences
Children must respect their siblings as individuals first. Though they are siblings, they still have a lot of differences. One might like a chocolate doughnut more, and the other might like a strawberry doughnut. It’s a tough lesson to teach, that neither of them is bad in taste, but that each one enjoys a different choice. This will lay the foundation for all their future that they’ll form as they grow up. They’ll learn that each person has distinct strengths.
Poor Behaviour Needs Personal Attention
We understand if you fight the urge to scream at either one of the siblings in front of the other, we strongly feel you shouldn’t. When children behave in a way they should not be doing, you can call our their bad behaviour but do not humiliate them. Explain to them on a one-is-to-one conversation that why were their actions wrong. It’s also important that the other sibling is explained the reason for the other sibling’s punishment regarding lousy behaviour separately. This establishes the rules for family behaviour.
Disputes are Best Solved by Them
Yes, we all know that siblings fight. And sad to break it to you, but no amount of good upbringing can stop their conflicts. It’s healthy for kids to have such disputes where they try to find the solution by themselves, in a way it prepares them for the future. As parents, it’s often tough to draw the line between letting go and stepping in. Only in situations where you deem it absolutely necessary, should you guide and suggest them to solve it instead of providing the solution. These sibling conflicts are actually hidden teaching opportunities for parents also.
Individual Attention is a Must
We couldn’t agree more when you read the above line and silently went on to say in your head that you’re human. But you’re also a parent, and that means listening to cribbing elder siblings that you give more attention to the younger ones and the younger ones complaining about you always taking the side of the elder one. Amidst all of that, you will have to take out time for each child privately. Private time with each sibling improves the sibling chemistry because they never feel hungry for your attention, and that leads to a sense of contentment with their siblings too.
Recognise their Feelings
We can’t emphasise enough on how important it is for a child’s feelings to get validation by parents from time to time. This only promotes strong feelings within the family. You don’t need to lend an ear every time, but when the child complains about something, it’s good to understand why they feel a certain way. Siblings generally think that parents are unfair towards one of them, and listening that why they feel that way makes all the difference. Don’t overlook their feelings, or they’ll stop expressing eventually.
Personal Physical Space
Don’t we all need time for ourselves? That’s actually true for children as well. They need their time to be by themselves and not always be overshadowed by an elder sibling or not have a younger one following them everywhere. An excellent way to allow them their ‘me time’ is when they’re busy in something that they enjoy. Differing interests can be pursued individually, and that time can be utilised for the same.
Sibling fights are an excellent way for parents to teach kids about their emotions and what are the appropriate ways to deal with them. Like the response to being upset doesn’t have to be pulling each other or hitting, children can be schooled in such moments to ignore and have a little alone time. This helps them to come to terms with their feelings. A child might ask to be left alone, which the other needs to learn to respect.
Family Bonding Time
Siblings make the best of friends if they get along well. And one way to do is have family activities that bring them closer together. For example, baking is one activity where everybody can contribute. Such activities allow for a lot of positive and healthy atmosphere for children to interact, further strengthening their siblings’ bonds.