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Creating Healthy Sibling Relationships

Sibling relationships are one of the first opportunities for children to learn social skills. Growing up, many of us have vivid memories about our relationships with our siblings. For some of us they are great memories and those relationships continue today but for others, these relationships were not positive and as a result may have evolved differently over the years.

Thinking back to your sibling relationships on a regular basis, may help you with your children and how they interact with each other. Here are some ideas and suggestions to help you generate and encourage positive feelings between your children.

Make sure that each of your children receives alone time with you a few times a week. this one on one time can cut down on the need to seek attention in inappropriate ways.

Examples of one on one time might be... a shared activity like reading, fixing a meal together, listening to music, taking a car ride or a walk. When spending time with one child refrain from talking about their siblings, this time should just be about the child you are with. It’s a perfect time to bond, get to know him or her a lot better and have some fun. 

Do not withhold the affection or attention from one child in order to make it up to another in an attempt to even things out. Parents often over compensate towards one child if they have had a day or two when another child had higher needs and therefore required more attention.  It is good to teach your children it is a fact of life, that on certain days they may get less attention and on other days more depending on the demands of the day.  Ultimately it will all even out. 

Do not get trapped into trying to fix this with too much togetherness. For some children the pressure of having to spend long stretches of time in the company of siblings can become stressful.  Try to be thoughtful of where the relationships are currently, and plan appropriately to keep stress and bickering down to a minimum for all involved. Try not to lock the children in their family order position for instance, oldest, middle and youngest. Give each of the children an opportunity to experience the freedoms and responsibilities of the other. When appropriate, encourage each child to share what they like about their sibling. Making them aware of the positive aspects of their sibling or siblings will keep them less focused on what they don’t like.

At the end of the day, petty sibling squabbles are to be expected and are perfectly normal.  Managing them and finding effective ways to resolve the conflict before it turns into a grudge, bitterness or resentment is where most of your efforts should be spent.  You know your children better than anyone and will know intuitively what will work for your family.  Trust yourself and be firm with your decisions and everything will turn out just fine.