Sibling rivalries can flare up in a moment, and no matter if it’s a sullen look or an all-out wrestling match, these incidents can lead to deep resentment when left unchecked. For parents, this means it’s important to help forge a sibling bond early on so they can overcome their negative feelings or even avoid them altogether.
Sibling Game Time
Establishing a routine for sibling game time or whole-family game time encourages the kids to play together, learn about each other, and experience healthy competition. For kids near the same age, board games, cards, and simple trivia games all come with boundaries and rules you can help enforce so the playing field is even. If there’s a big gap in the siblings’ ages, teach the older kids to give their younger siblings more time, an extra turn, or some other advantage. If it’s still too intense, switch the teams so parents play the kids. The trick is to introduce competition, but to do so in a way that teaches the siblings fairness, respect and security. To enhance your kids’ communication skills, teach them games such as charades or “guess the drawing.” In addition to creative problem-solving, these games can teach siblings to pay attention to each other’s body language and nonverbal cues.
Scavenger or Treasure Hunt
Encourage your kids to work together toward a common goal, whether it is solving clues, finding “lost” items or completing a hunt. Have the kids team up, and ensure to make challenges suitable for everyone. For instance, if you have two children ages 6 and 10, set up a treasure hunt with sets of clues appropriate for each child. Have them take turns solving their clues and only let them proceed after they’ve both contributed. If the 6-year-old gets stumped, encourage the older sibling to help out. For scavenger hunts, select items with family meaning, such as old photos, memorabilia, and inherited trinkets. This can increase your kids’ understanding of family and give them new respect for their shared identity.
Arts and Crafts
Creating art for each other can help siblings to overcome a spat and learn more about their common interests. Younger siblings can make wall decorations for their older brothers or sisters using cardboard, photos printed on plain paper, and tape. To step up the complexity, have them peruse magazines and clip out things they think their siblings would like. Even if the artwork doesn’t turn out to be a masterpiece, the conversation the siblings will have about the included clippings will help them understand their likes and dislikes. If you’re looking for an unusual way to teach a lesson, use your smartphone to take pictures of an upset sibling after a spat. Then, go to the offending child and encourage him to make an “I'm sorry" present, which will consist of a frame or picture holder for the printed photo and an attached title of: “I will never make you feel this way again."
Joint chores can bring siblings closer. In fact, siblings might even bond over the unpopularity of chores and learn how to assign tasks, improve efficiency and communicate. So, it’s worth it to parents to fight through the whining and make chores, such as dish-washing, dog walking, leaf raking and folding laundry a family affair. One key to maximizing the benefits of shared housework is to distribute the tasks fairly so no one feels overburdened. Another is to encourage older siblings, either through praise or rewards, to help younger siblings understand how to do the chores correctly.
- Nurturing the Souls of our Children: What Children Need and What Parents Can Do; Thomas F. Geary Ph.D., et al.
- The Process of Parenting; Jane B. Brooks
- Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too; Adele Faber, et al.
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