At best, sibling relationships provide friendship, safety and security, attachment and bonding. Siblings are united by shared experiences and memories. Everyone also has their individual experiences and memories affected by the relationship between family members.
The age, age difference, gender, birth order and family’s situation all have an effect on the relationship between siblings. The family situation changes as the children grow and develop and also when new babies arrive to the family.
Sibling relationships in short
- A sibling relationships involves positive and negative feelings.
- Siblings practise important life and social skills together: sharing, negotiating, comforting, considering others, arguing, forgiving and apologising, playing together and standing one’s ground.
- The unique characteristics of each child propose different challenges for the parents.
- Arguments between siblings are common in every family.
- Sibling rivalry is based on competition of parents’ attention and undivided love. A child defines their self and their own skills by comparison to the siblings.
- Not all arguing is dangerous or destructive as one learns important skills in arguments. Arguments are a part of a happy and functional relationship; it is a good thing you can show many different emotions at home.
Tips for parents
- Give your children positive attention and feedback when everything is going well.
- Be fair and accept each child as his or her individual self. Do not compare the children to one another.
- Encourage the children to play, or initiate play together.
- Make time for play, games and other activities you and the children enjoy.
- Give each child one on one time with one parent every so often.
- Maintain a daily schedule: sufficient diet, enough sleep, exercise, outdoor activities and rest prevent unnecessary tantrums.
- If a child becomes all of a sudden quarrelsome, there may be an outside home upset in his or her mind.
Intervention is not necessary in many of the sibling disagreements. Help is needed if feelings run high and are difficult to control or the situation is dangerous.
- Do not settle the arguments and disagreement on children’s behalf. Encourage and guide the children to solve disagreements by negotiation.
- Avoid focusing on finding or naming a guilty party, do not repeatedly take one child’s side.
- If the situation is getting dangerous or the children’s tolerance and negotiation skills are used up, help the poor little rascals: focus their attention somewhere else or separate them for a cool-down period. The incident can be discussed once the children have calmed down.