“There’s no better friend than a sister.” - Mary Engelbreit
One of my big dreams for my two daughters is that they would grow up to be close friends. When I hear stories about siblings who don’t get along or don’t speak to each other as adults, it breaks my heart.
Having healthy relationships with your siblings is so important – even the research proves it! One study found “Sibling affection was positively associated with adolescents' sympathy and prosocial behavior. Sibling hostility was positively associated with adolescents' depression.” Therefore, it is important for parents to help their kids develop positive relationships and strong bonds.
With summer approaching, I know I don’t want to spend my days acting as a referee between my girls, so instead, I’m going to act like a coach. Plus, a little conflict between siblings is healthier than them ignoring one another! Here are some of the tips I found in my research that I plan to use in my home to help my girls grow closer to one another and build a lasting relationship.
Don’t Make Them Compete
Why do parents do this? While it is easy to judge from the outside, it is easier than you may realize. You may even be doing it without noticing it. For example, have you ever commented on how one child is better at cleaning up her dishes or one child is faster to get buckled in the car? Instead, the only competition should be in the spirit of fun – and even then, be careful to avoid creating sibling rivalry.
Teach Them to Fight Fair
Like I said earlier, it is normal and even a good thing for siblings to have conflict now and then. It can actually work as a safe place for kids to learn how to handle conflict in healthy ways. For instance, while you don’t want them giving each other black eyes, you do want them to learn how to express their frustration in the right way. Along those lines, have some clear family rules for handling conflict, such as no name calling.
Remind Them They’ll Always Have Each Other for Support
Make a point to teach your kids that they have each other for support. Remind them to support one another and cheer one another on. Explain that, as they grow, their siblings will be their secret keepers and the only other people who get their family’s inside jokes and know their family’s history.
Encourage Them to Play Together
The more often siblings play together, the more memories they make. Depending on your kid's ages, this can be tricky. For instance, LEGO Movie 2 reminded audiences about how play becomes separated as the age gap appears wider. While your ten-year-old probably won’t always want to play with your five-year-old, you should still encourage them to play together – even if it is something as simple as a game of hide and seek.
Find Things They Enjoy Doing Together
Speaking of play, you may have to create moments for your kids – especially if their ages do not make it easy. For instance, encourage them to go on walks, bake cookies, or watch America’s Funniest Home Videos together.