Sharing, holding hands, helping tie shoes, siblings can share a lifelong bond of trust, love and friendship. They can also have many fights, brawls and squabbles.
Recent studies on sibling relationships seem to show a pattern relating to sibling relationships and parental affection, attachment and attention. Children that reported having to fight for parental attention and being forced to share belongings were generally unhappier later in life than those who have maintained a strong bond to their parents and siblings throughout childhood and early adulthood. Those children who felt their needs were attended to by parents early in life and in the teenage years, report more happiness later in life than children without siblings.
So if having siblings can actually be good for overall happiness how can parents create an atmosphere that can lead ever lasting sisterhood/brotherhood?
These are three ways to promote sibling harmony in the home:
Team Work: Getting siblings to work together, to solve problems, overcome challenges can be a great way to form early bonds of a lifetime of friendship and trust. Having pillow fights for example can be a great playful way to create a pretend atmosphere of “us” against “them” bringing siblings closer in their attempts to defeat mom or dad. Just recently all three of my children waited sneakily (giggling up a small storm) under the covers just waiting to pounce with a handful of pillows. I threw myself onto the mattress, over dramatizing the total defeat and watched as the children gave each other high fives and yelled “We are the coolest team ever.”
Special Time: Maintaining individual and group special times each and every week (or daily) is a wonderful way to show every family member that they matter and have their place and space in the family. For our family, we try to rotate special times just with mom or dad for each child where the children can for example choose to run an errand or play a game just with one parent. Special times in our family have even grown to include times that are reserved just for the boys to do something together or with their sister. On Monday morning, my five year old spent about twenty minutes reading a board book to his sister, showing her shapes and animals and upon finishing the board book he told me “That was special time for just me and Bella, she likes to hear me read even if I can’t read all the words yet.”
Respect: Creating an overall atmosphere of respect in the family can go a long way to promote sibling harmony. In our family we try to respect our children’s feelings when they are not ready to share a beloved toy or snack. We also have moved into accepting that after an incident involving hitting or hurting our children might not be ready to apologize to a sibling right away.
Recently, my three year old grabbed a toy car out of my five year olds hands. My five year old was livid and hit his brother on the arm. My three year old threw the car down and walked away crying and wanted a hug from me. Two minutes later he went back and the boys had a conversation sort of like this: “Are you ready to share that now?” “No, I’m mad you threw my favorite car.” “You hit me” “I did. Do you want to borrow this car instead; you can be the police car and catch the bad guy.” “Ok.” They continued to play. Ten minutes later my five year old said completely unprompted: “I’m so sorry I hurt you, want to borrow the car now? I’m done.” “Thanks brother.” Said my three year old.
How do you promote peace and friendship among siblings? Do you share (or wish you did) a special bond with sibblings?
Siblings Don’t Have to be Rivals– by Marie Hartwell-Walker
Siblings Struggles – by Janet Landsbury
Peace & Be Well,