Whenever my siblings and I fought growing up, our mother would always remind us of one thing: one day, she and our dad would be gone and we would only have each other. Yes, we’d have our friends and maybe spouses, too, but the bond of sharing a childhood will always hold something different. Their children having a close relationship, especially as adults, is a mother’s dream. The question is, how do you achieve this?
Siblings Who Support One Another: A Mother’s Dream
Having close relationships with your siblings is awesome. Your siblings are your first friends – the people with whom you spend most of your first few years of life with. You have so many shared memories and experiences together and understand one another in a way that even a best friend can’t. A mother’s dream is that her children have this close, supportive, and loving relationship. Unfortunately, when she is in the midst of breaking up the third fight that day, that dream might seem impossible.
6 Ways To Cultivate Supportive, Positive Sibling Relationships
Thankfully, parents can do plenty of things to help cultivate a bond between their children that will grow into strong adult relationships. This is how to make a mother’s dream a reality and help your children get along and actually love and care for one another.
1. Never Compare Your Kids
Comparison is the thief of joy, and this is quite apparent when it comes to sibling relationships. Each of your children is unique. They will not be good at the same things, and one child might be more difficult to raise than another. It is crucial that you never – under any circumstances – compare them. This only pits them against each other and increases sibling rivalry, which is the enemy of support and friendship. (1)
2. Look For Patterns
Pay attention to your children while they are interacting and try to determine which scenarios usually end in a fight. Perhaps they fight when they feel they are being ignored, either by you or one another. Perhaps one child continuously does one behavior that really gets under the other’s skin. Maybe it’s simply when they are tired or hungry. Either way, when you have identified these, you can minimize fights. (1)
3. Encourage Fun
Your kids aren’t going to share all the same interests, but likely they will at least share a few. Promote doing these activities together and encourage having fun together. These will build happy memories and associate sibling time with fun and happiness. (2) When your kids are having fun and playing together, let it keep happening. Even if they’re being silly, you’re exhausted, and you are finding it getting on your nerves – let them continue.
4. Cultivate Healthy Discussions and Empathy
As much as it seems like a dream to have kids who never fight, in reality, these are the perfect moments to teach discussion, problem-solving, and respect. The first part of this is teaching children how to communicate their emotions accurately and explain why they are upset with their sibling. (3)
“Sibling relationships tend to be very emotional,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Kramer. “Giving kids robust language to calmly express themselves can be the difference between “I hate you!” and “It makes me angry when you take my dolls,” or “I know you love hanging out with your new high school friends, but I miss spending time with you.” (3)
From there, teach them how to respect one another’s feelings, not dismiss them, and the importance of saying sorry properly. Often we do things that hurt each other that are unintentional, but we still need to apologize. Then they can learn how to work together to solve their conflicts respectfully and effectively. (2)
Finally, one part of conflict is learning how to disagree with one another respectfully. Teach them how to explain their position politely and that they can respect one another’s opinion even if they disagree. Just because you have different opinions doesn’t mean you have to fight. (2)
5. Help Them Become A Team
Give them tasks, like chores, to complete together as a team. Switch language from “Who can get ready the fastest?” to “Let’s work together to see how fast we can get out the door this morning!”. It will teach them that things are better when they work together and that they can be more fun. (1, 2) On top of that, a certain bonding happens when people have to do something challenging together. I remember long hours in shared misery with my siblings weeding our mother’s flower garden. We still laugh about those days together all these years later.
6. Make Family Time Fun Time
Don’t forget the role you play in sibling fun. Encouraging siblings to enjoy time together also means the parents need to get involved. Fun family time doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, either. You can turn boring activities into games with parents vs. kids competitions, like who can wash the most dishes or other chores. Have family playdates at the park or the beach, or even just play games together in the backyard. (2, 3)
Sibling Love Will Grow Over Time
There were a few years where I found one of my brothers annoying 24/7. We fought daily, often more than once. Today, we are adults who love each other very much and bond by sending each other cute dog videos over Instagram. Even if you employ all the strategies listed above, your children are likely still going to fight. Despite the arguments, underneath, they will be building a bond that will be strong by the time they are older. Combined with maturity (and likely more space), they will be much closer than it seems right now.
Keep Reading: Evidence Your Older Sibling Is Probably Smarter Than You