Siblings are a funny bunch, aren’t they? In one breath, they are inseparable best friends, and in the next breath it is as if they are one another’s kryptonite. It can be enough to drive a parent crazy, unless you can find the peace and joy within these phases.
By taking a step back and playing witness to the developing relationships, you will have the opportunity to best learn how to harbor and support a healthy, long-lasting bond between your children.
Throughout the summer months, siblings spend countless hours together, a concept they may not be used to after the rigid school year. This presents many challenges as a parent because the children are used to sitting in a classroom, being directed throughout each day, and not interacting freely for hours on end. The overwhelming freedom of a summer schedule can lead to arguing, excess screen time, or over-powering older siblings.
How can a parent turn the situation around and use this freedom to bring the family closer together?
By understanding, relating, and meeting your children’s individual needs, you can work together to better the sibling relationship. Even with younger children who are not quite school-age yet (or families who homeschool), it is important to be able to relate and work with each child so they feel as though their needs are met.
Children of all ages can understand the following guidelines. It is all in how they are explained and instilled within the home.
Explain Personal Space
Everyone has a personal bubble, and children cross into that space without realizing it. This can trigger a confrontation. Teaching children how to ask someone to respect their space will grant them the confidence to handle situations better. Sometimes, children need time apart, time with a parent without siblings, and time with friends to have fun without feeling forced to be with a sibling. This is not a bad thing – it is normal. It can be hard for siblings to understand, but being able to grant a sibling space can lead to a closer bond when together.
Respect Individual Items, But Understand They are THINGS
This world is full of materialistic things. Kids have too much stuff, and most don’t want to share any of it. It’s okay to have a few special items that are treasured and kept out of reach to other siblings, and siblings need to respect what is not theirs. However, children should understand that things are things; they are to be played with and enjoyed together. If siblings want to play with the same thing at the same time, try using a phrase like, “I’m sorry, I see that Tommy has that toy. It’s unavailable right now. You can wait until he is finished playing, or ask to join him.”
Gentle Words and Gentle Hands for Gentle Hearts
Kindness must be demonstrated to be absorbed. Words can hurt as much or more than physical pain sometimes, and children are delicate beings. By modeling kindness yourself, you are helping to teach empathy. When situations arise, supporting and reassuring all children involved helps to bring them closer together. Instead of forcing an apology, take the time to comfort and talk about why a person feels as they do and how another can comfortably work through an issue with respect and kindness.
Allow Them to Plan Adventures
When children are given the freedom to plan adventures together, it sparks creativity and teamwork. Whether it is an afternoon affair or a weekend getaway, planning something together will ensure that they enjoy it together. It also promotes problem-solving and cooperation!
Give Them Space and Very Little Direction
“Get them outside!” It sounds absurd, but it works. Handing children some buckets and allowing them the space and freedom to just BE together is all that it takes for them to bond. You can turn on a hose, give them some dirt, or turn on a bubble machine, after several minutes of being bored, kids will come up with something together.
Elizabeth is a researcher, author, and content writer for My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear, a brand that makes recordable stuffed animals to listen to your baby’s heartbeat. She spends her days as the ringleader of a never-tiring circus; one full of tightrope walkers, nerf gun shooters, mess makers, and danger-seekers. Elizabeth is currently expecting baby #5 and homeschooling the rest of her tribe. She exists on toddler kisses, caffeine, and tears of (panic) happiness. Also read her latest blogs about pregnancy.
Recommended for you: