Treat your children the same, as equals, and they will be friends. Set good examples and they will follow your lead. Or will they?
Sibling rivalry is a tricky topic. Of course you want to treat your children in the same way; equality is important. But, what about equity? Acknowledging, accepting and allowing differences, including the varying degrees of energy and time you give your children is important too. So, if you are trying your best to ensure that your eldest child is supported through their examination period, whilst your younger child has you present for sports day and your middle child is able to have your time for the chats that they need, how are you going to juggle it all? And, just as importantly, how are you going to have some influence over sibling rivalry?
Whist being a parent can be extremely enjoyable and rewarding, it is also one of the toughest jobs available and finding the right balance between hard work and enjoyment can be a struggle. Juggling your various roles as wife, mother, daughter, and friend may leave you feeling exhausted and drained. Most of you will try extremely hard to ensure that all of the relationships in your life are strong and loving, but it can prove difficult to instil a sense of the same in the lives of your children. It can seem like a fairly futile exercise to encourage your children to understand the value of nurturing their relationships with their siblings.
Set an example
Children develop through learning from those around them. You are the most influential role model in their lives. By watching you care for your own family and for their brothers and sisters, by emulating you as you look out for individual needs, be they physical, social, educational or emotional, they will learn to practice the same.
Here are some tips for encouraging harmonious and fulfilling sibling relationships:
1. Encourage them to spend quality time together todevelop lasting and deep friendships.
2. Apply rules and rewards consistently — depending upon their ages.
3. Encourage them to talk through the issues thatarise between them in an effort to help eachempathise with the other point of view.
4. Help them to discuss what their relationshipsneed to work well.
5. Keep shared fond memories alive.
6. Give each child space when they need it.
7. Allow them to be different and to show theiruniqueness.
8. Help them to explore the notion of compromisebeing essential in a household.
9. Have fun and laugh together.
10. Share learning experiences.
11. Celebrate achievements and milestones together.
12. Encourage being there as support for each other.
If all seems to fail, do not give up. Many siblings “make up”, thrive upon or rekindle relationships during adulthood whilst others stay loyal throughout their lives. Sometimes these things develop gradually and sometimes children simply have to work out a way to get on or be civil, without ever being the best of friends. It is important to remember that we are all different and that certain personalities just don’t gel very well. As long as you encourage them to work things out as far as they can, to ensure that their life together isn’t always going to be an uphill battle, then you have done as much as you can.
It is very important to remember not to push things too far. Your constant and overbearing interference will only add pressure to an already intense situation. Allow them time and space, as well as offering your advice and suggestions. Some siblings are apathetic or indifferent towards each other and there won’t be much you can do to change this, no matter how frustrating it may feel. Just be sure to create consistent “bonding” occasions for them, such as celebrations of achievements. Keep the positive emotions and memories of such times alive through photographs and reminiscences.
It is always easier for siblings to have strong relationships if everyone in the family is living close-by. If this is not easily achieved, modern technology has made geographical distances less of an issue. So, as the older children leave the nest, try and have a little routine to keep relationships close, such as setting a time to have a conference call together. Encouraging Skype, iChat or Facebook dates, without being overbearing, can really help to strengthen relationships.
For various reasons, some siblings are separated and live in alternative family environments. The most important thing in this situation is to ensure that there are loving and caring adults available to each child all the time. There are some great examples of siblings living apart sharing an excellent bond, possibly because they aren’t always in each others’ pockets, treading on each others’ toes.
Whatever the nature of relationships your children have with each other, ensure that you are there to support them, especially during the difficult times. Always maintain objectivity as you hear their bickering and tantrums. Sometimes you have to stand back and let them learn how to overcome differences and, to an extent, develop the relationship for themselves.