Best Practices for Fostering Close Sibling Relationships

Want kids who are good friends well into their twilight years?

Here are 6 of my favorite grounding philosophies/practices to strengthen the sibling relationship:

1. Notice when they get along. Get an accurate idea of how often your kids get along and how it “looks and sounds” when they are getting along. When challenged with this task, most parents admit the kids get along more than they give them credit for. Take a deep breath and relax. Remember to acknowledge when the kids are working together or enjoying each other and be specific so they can use this information again and again.

2. Give them a break from each other. Even kids who love each other can get sick and tired of hanging with the same folks for too long. Sometimes it’s that simple. Allow them time alone, with other friends, with parents one-on-one and don’t get caught up in the “it’s not fair” song and dance.

3. If you have friends with older kids (like young teens), leverage them. They can teach your kids the importance of getting along with their siblings in a way that we, the parents, can’t. Hearing a story from a 10, 13 or 16 year old about how awesome they think their sibling is, or a time when their sibling came to their rescue, can go a long way in helping shift your child’s perspective towards their pesky sibling.

4. Stop fretting. Most kids do enjoy each other. They might not show it the way you want them too, but they are young, they are doing the best they can. Allow the relationship to grow over time, slowly and naturally. Watch that you aren’t comparing or judging and your expectations are in line with reality.

5. Keep your own childhood out of the picture. You aren’t raising yourself and overcompensating for a lousy relationship with your sister will only guarantee that your kids struggle to create meaningful relationships with each other. Why bring your sister Mary into this? She’s not involved in your kids’ relationships. If you model for your kids what a healthy relationship looks like, sounds like and feels like, they have a much better chance of establishing a healthy one with their siblings. Trying to force kids to get along usually backfires and causes more fractures, not less.

6. Take pictures of the times your children are enjoying each other and post them around the house. When kids start to squabble, bring them over to a picture and ask them to remind you of what was happening in the action. Along with this, make sure when you’re giving appreciations during family meeting, you include when kids are rockin’ it together. Remember, whatever you pay attention to – you get more of.

Go ahead, grab a few of these tips and give it a shot. Take what resonates with you. And have faith – it’s not nearly as important to have young children who get along all the time as it is to build a strong foundation that will grow with them over time.

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