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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

9 Tips for Encouraging Healthy, Happy Sibling Relationships

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Any parent of more than one child has experienced their home going from a peaceful paradise of calm, happy play to an absolute war zone where the two little people you love best in the world are screaming at each other. Sibling rivalry is a real thing and can have a lasting impact. A little bit is a natural part of growing up with a brother or sister, but if you want your children to have a healthy, loving relationship as adults, it's important to rein it in and help them learn to get along now.


1. Spend Special Time With Each Child

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The first way to minimize sibling rivalry is to spend time with them both and make sure that they know that you appreciate each of them as individuals. Try to set aside some time for each of them on a regular basis when it's just the two of you, and spend this quality time doing something they enjoy. For instance, my younger daughter has started getting interested in yoga lately, so I've been doing regular workouts with her. Meanwhile, my older daughter loves to cook, so I make a point of bringing her into the kitchen with me at least once a week as my sous chef. Spending time alone with each child will deepen your bond with them and their bond with you, and it reassures them that they are loved and valued as individuals.


2. Compliment Good Behavior

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When you see one of your children making an extra effort to get along, like sharing a favorite toy or helping out with homework, compliment them (but do it out of earshot of the other kid). Also, don't be afraid to compliment the kids as a group if they are playing nicely together or otherwise involved in a shared activity.


3. Avoid Comparing Siblings

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The number one thing parents of multiple children need to remember is to avoid comparing your children to each other. Of course, it's inevitable that you'll notice that your son's room is neat while your daughter's looks like a hurricane went through it, but keep the comparison to yourself: Talk to your daughter about her messy room without referencing her brother. Similarly, if your daughter loves to climb jungle gyms, rock walls, and trees in the backyard but your son is afraid of heights, don't ask why he can't be brave like his sister. Comparing siblings can ruin their relationship.


4. Don't Force Forgiveness

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As a kid, I loved the book Little Women. What I didn't love was when little sister Amy was angry at big sister Jo and burned the book Jo was writing. When your kids strike out at each other (hopefully in less severe ways that don't involve fire!), don't force the wronged party to forgive them right away. Kids have feelings and emotional lives just like adults, and letting the wronged sibling work through their anger and sadness will allow the relationship to repair itself more naturally than you forcing them to act like everything is OK will.


5. Model Appropriate Behavior

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Want your children to behave reasonably, be generous, and act graciously? The best way to ensure that your home is peaceful, loving, and filled with gratitude is to model that behavior yourself. If the kids see you yell at your spouse for drinking all of the coffee or see you act out in moments of frustration, they will copy these behaviors. Being the person you'd like your children to be is hard, and no one is perfect. But making a real attempt and owning up to your own mistakes can help give your children the tools they need to behave appropriately.


6. Set Ground Rules

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Although it's important to let your children figure out their relationship, it's still important that you set and enforce some rules. Everyone in your household should understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. They also should understand the consequences of breaking the rules. Acting respectfully, avoiding name-calling, and refraining from criticizing are good ground rules to ensure healthy sibling boundaries.


7. Anticipate Issues

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Look for pressure points, and see how you can address them before they get out of hand. Are fights over bathroom access a common occurrence? Set up and enforce a schedule so that everyone has the time they need to get ready. Schedules also work for battles over who sits where in the car or whose turn it is to use the tablet.


8. Listen to Your Children

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I'm sometimes frustrated by my spouse, coworkers, friends, and family members. Children are just likely to be frustrated by their siblings. Let them talk about their feelings and frustrations. Don't be afraid to share stories of your childhood and issues with your siblings growing up. Consider having regular family meetings where issues can be shared and addressed.


9. Build Memories

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Find activities and experiences that your whole family will enjoy. These don't have to be costly: Afternoons at the park, evenings playing board games, and even simple things like singing silly songs on the way to school in the morning can help your children bond. These shared memories and childhood bonds will bolster their relationships as adults.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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