Siblings spend more time together during childhood than they do with parents. It's a bond that you want to promote and here are a few tips on how.
Siblings can be the greatest playmates. They learn so much through their relationship and growing up together.
Of course It can cause some strife too - jealousy, competition, or even a little fear - particularly if you feel your sibling is getting more attention from mom and dad than you.
Many factors like age difference, personality, and boundaries or level of conflict tolerated contribute to how the level of strife among siblings.
Knowing that siblings will grow and go through developmental changes that will cause the sibling relationship to be stronger at certain times than others helps you find peace.
It's still possible to promote a positive relationship. Even if it's a bit rocky now with big changes like a new baby - it will get better.
I can attest to that by the look that was one my 16 month old middle child when gram and gramp brought her to the hospital to meet her new baby sister. It was a look of total and complete betrayal, confusion, fear, and anger all wrapped up in a way a toddler only can.
And today, about seven years later, I can tell you they are the BEST playmates. I even read a valentine from my middle to my younger saying how much she loves her. Melt.
They've had their moments of frustration with one another no doubt. Is there a better place to learn how to be with others, to be in relationship than in your home when you can help them and guide them in how to be.
Learning how to be a human through the sibling relationship at home with you to model is the ideal testing ground
Overall, their sibling bond is strong and there is truly nothing better than to see as a parent. It's one of the greatest joys to hear siblings laugh, play and enjoy one another.
Knowing they'll have one another through the many ups and downs that will come in their individual journeys and paving of their own paths is a comfort.
It's worth the work to set them up and promote that relationship early. Here's how.
8 Tips to help Sibs Connect + Get along even amidst the natural life changes that may create some strife
Time Share as best you can What bothers siblings most is having to share you with them. Creating special one-on-one time with them at designated times helps them know when it's coming and they love consistency. This is not always easy with a newborn so also be spontanious if you notice a free ten minute window, use it to get on the floor and play with them. Keep in mind that the concept of sharing is actually foreign for a child under three. This is why a child of that age may be having a particularly hard time. Remembering that this is a unique time in their life and there's so if you have to put off housework and chores at certain times to give your child that attention they need may create a more sane energy in your home. Giving them bursts of attention whenever possible will help them regulate better, act out less, and overall lessen the meltdowns.
Adopt the perspective 'they are having a hard time, not giving you a hard time' Modeling empathy for a sibling having a hard time is teaching your children a superpower. Matching their frustration just makes things worth. Try to remember they are having a hard time and they probably need your love and kindness at this time more than anything. Just be with them as they feel their big emotions and being a calm gentle presence helps them move through hard things. You are modeling emotional regulation skills to them and to the other sib by staying calm in these tough moments and treating them as you would want to be treated.
Set Up for Success Children play much better in a space that is not super cluttered and everything has a place. Outer chaos can lead to inner chaos. Develop the routine of clean up after play time to put things away or maybe just at the end of the night. A good practice is to rotate toys in and out. Setting a new toy out always captivates a toddler - even if its not actually new but just been away for a month or so. So if possible, set yourself up by cleaning your play space, having a place for everything and modeling putting things away when done, doing a nightly clean sweep, and setting up fresh toys at the start of the week or day as you can to keep them busy and engaged.
Promote Positive Time Together If you know certain activities, games or toys that they play well together - set them up for it. Set out that game or create the play environment that tends to encourage them to play that way. You may even want to play it with them to get them going. Be sure to positively reinforce them playing it together and maybe even reward them after with a special snack.
Encourage Being a Helper Children loved to be helpful. Create little jobs for them that are age appropriate. Positively reinforce them doing 'their work' and whenever they help with sibling, praise them for being a good helper. Having their work may be a good distraction when they are doing something negative that you want them to be diverted from. You can even in bring in a simple reward chart - maybe just earning stars whenever you see this type of positive, helpful behavior. Pointing it out and positively reinforcing the good behavior is so important. You can have a reward of a special activity with you when they earn enough stars.
Encourage Being the Entertainer It feels good when people think you are fun. Whenever a sibling does something that makes their sib laugh or sets up a game that is fun, encourage it. You an say things like "look how much your sib enjoys seeing you do that" or "you are a lot of fun when you play that way" or "you are making your sibling laugh." Of course this can easily lead into too much silly. So you can divert if it gets that way and continue to positively reinforce a good silly not the 'over the top silly' that is a hallmark of toddlers.
Encourage Being the Leader There are many ways to practice being a leader within the sibling relationship. Point out whenever a sib leads a game in a positive way or models a positive way to play or talk or be. Also, give them chances to be a leader by asking them to set up a fun play area for their sib or lead the line, open the door etc. As they get older this can continue, pointing out when your child handles conflict well or is responsible for doing helpful chores like setting table when you make dinner or watering plants and pointing out how special it is to do these 'big kid' things that baby can't do.
Encourage Cooperation Over Competition A little healthy competition can be good but it can quickly go sour, especially among siblings. Be sure to positively reinforce and reward when you see cooperation and working together. Try not to compare them - especially since they will often be at different places developmentally. So always look at them independently and comparing each one with where they are now to where they once were and reinforce that over how they compare to their sibling.
Hopefully these tips help your children stay connected and get along so they forge a bond that will last through the many challenges life will bring.
Siblings who can turn to one another and learn how to show up better and be in relationship is a good thing. As a parent, modeling and following these tips will help in promoting that positive relationship and creating that secure bond.
Check out the 5 house rules to keep your house more sane for more ways to create calm at home. Or, if you want to solidify the vision you have for your home and family life, check out the Vision + Action guide.
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