The sibling relationship can be one of the most powerful in our lives. The road to growing up together can make you the strongest allies or bitter enemies, depending on the moment. I want, more than anything, when I leave this world for my children to have a tight bond with each other. While the road is rocky at times, I am learning some things along the way. Here are some ideas for cultivating sibling friendships.
Create opportunities for kids to help each other. Give siblings the opportunities to help each other in practical ways. Older siblings can help younger kids get dressed, get a glass of water, find their shoes. Younger siblings can deliver things, or even help an older brother or sister clean up a room.
It is important to invite younger kids to also do things for older children and not ask the older sibling to do more than their share. We wander into the land of asking our oldest children to parent when we rely on them too much.
These helping moments teach care and consideration for the other person.
Let them play crazy games together. There are often times when my kids are playing really loud, boisterous games all together. My instinct is to "bring it down" a notch or two but those are often big sibling bonding times. If they aren't bothering anyone and are safe, let them go and have all the family love to be had.
Insist they respect each other. While siblings in our family are not always going to like each other, they are expected to respect each other's bodies and feelings. In our house, that means no physical fighting of any kind and no name calling. I try to stay out of their arguments but if things are escalating I step in.
Simple steps like having them face each other, one person talk at a time and stating their needs clearly to the other person can solve most confrontations. When all that fails, my mom used to send us to our rooms until we worked it out. I think it mostly gave her a break from us.
Shake up the friendships. If you have more than two children, you know there are often children that seem closer to one or another at times. Pair up the two that need to grow their friendship. Take them out for an ice cream together or putt-putt golf. Giving them time and space together gives them the chance to discover new connections. Don't let age difference be a stumbling block; there is always something to do together if you look hard enough.
Look for acts of kindness. Start a Family Acts of Kindness list in your home. Invite kids to be agents looking for the next kind act towards another family member. You will be amazed how much goodness is already happening and how much more is invited in when you practice this list.
What things do you do to create and sustain friendships among the siblings in your house? What are your biggest stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them? Share your insight in the comments.