Best friends forever aka siblings

August 09, 2018

Best friends forever aka siblings

Ah, siblings. Movies, books, plays and more have been dedicated to the relationship between siblings. The ones who were there before us or came after and took some of the spotlights away. But they also took some of the blame away and made things easy in the darkest hours of childhood and then grown up years.

Remember how they fought the bully for you and stood beside you so you did not feel alone while confronting your fear? Remember how you would break something and blame each other or better yet, pretend not to know who had done it so your parents could not single out punishment? Those shared sweets and those divided scoldings… all of it made them a part of your life and your best friends forever. You may now have separate lives, but the common concern for parents and those memories keep you together and you know they are just a phone call away.  

But it’s not always that way… at times, siblings can drift apart. So how do you make sure your children stay close to each other (and we include cousins in this).

Siblings fight – for that last piece of chocolate, for that toy that both need at the same time, for the alleged extra love the other gets! Actually, some of the best childhood memories are about the all-out fights you had with your sibling and how silly it seems now.  It also is a way we learn to navigate our way with friends, colleagues and more.

Fortunately, there is some good science to guide us, and this is what it says.

Give positive opportunities to play. Try and figure out what they have in common and let them do those activities together. For instance, if swimming is something they both enjoy, they can do more of that. Sports too bind individuals together. Positive play experiences help siblings lay a foundation for a life-long bond.

Treat them fairly. What may not seem important to you may be important to little children. From a very young age, kids understand relationships and compare how they stand in them. It’s important to be seen as fair even if you don’t treat them the same. The discipline, the praise, the rewards and the rules, etc. have to be applied similarly to all. That, in turn, leads to a better, positive relationship between siblings.

Emotional coaching. Teach kids how to identify, monitor, evaluate, and modify their emotional reactions to their siblings. Help them communicate better with each other. Let them understand what hurts the other and refrain from such hurtful behavior. Sharing and caring from the very beginning will encourage a positive experience.

Limit negative experiences. If you know your children are cranky or likely to engage in fights and negative behavior, it’s a good idea to separate them at that point. Let each of them have a toy or book or some activity they can do in their alone time.  

Respond to conflict. Inevitably, siblings will fight and have disagreements that they need to manage, and in some ways, it is learning ground for future social interactions. Ultimately, we want to teach kids how to deal with emotionally charged situations—to calmly communicate their individual needs and point of view to others and learning with siblings is ideal.

Do not rush to intervene during a conflict. Be the impartial observer and step in only if there is possible physical harm or emotional hurt. It is best to let them speak for themselves, even when they are very young. This will help them in other social situations as they grow, be it in school or even work eventually.

Fostering close relationships between our kids is one of our primary goals, and it mostly happens with just the bare minimum intervention or direction. These are friends they will have for a lifetime. Remember, the best way we can all do this is by walking the talk and being the best example for them to watch, observe and learn from. So go ahead and hug your sibling. Watch your kids follow suit. Better yet, share with us what you have done to foster sibling closeness! Happy families are made this way!




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