Worried about how your kids are getting (or not getting) along? Sibling squabbling and rivalry are to be expected in the normal course of things, but you do want them to establish a bond that stays strong when they are no longer obligated to live together under one roof. I thought a lot about this when my three children were young, with their three distinctly different personalities, and I focused on how to encourage their bond. As young adults they are happily pursuing separate lives, but they make a real effort to stay connected to one another. Here are some ways I’ve found helpful to encourage “Sibling Chill”:
1) Move the kids from “Team Adult” to “Team Kid”: When you are introducing newborns to older siblings, it is important that the older ones initially feel that they are part of “Team Adult”, i.e., that they are the big boys or girls helping out with the infant. But it is equally important that all the children ultimately land together on “Team Kid”, that they view each other as allies united in the struggle against unreasonable parent rule.
2) Avoid Overscheduling: With the vast assortment of after school and weekend activities to choose from, your children can wind up with no time to spend together, particularly if there are a few years between them. Make sure they have down time at the same time, and that they can spend it together.
3) Encourage Family Activities: Board games, games in the car, watching family movies together are all ways to engage all the children in one fun activity. There are plenty of board games that kids of varying ages can enjoy together. You can play with them, and then you can let them play on their own. And of course, family travel is a great way for the kids to spend quality time together.
4)Encourage Family Celebrations: As a huge enthusiast of celebrating as many events as possible (half birthdays, yes!) I insisted that everyone participate if a celebration was at hand. I gave them enough notice so that they didn’t plan a conflicting playdate with a favorite pal, but I wasn’t going for any last-minute reason why they couldn’t join in.
5) Don’t Compare or Play Favorites: From time to time you may find one child more funny, smart, pleasant, enjoyable, likeable than another. By all means compliment that child, but resist all temptation to include a knock against another child in the conversation. Also, make sure that you are not spending an inordinate time with one child over others (unless there are special needs or circumstances that require it). We parents need to check ourselves regularly to ensure we are not playing favorites. Easy to think that we aren’t but important to be make sure that we don’t.
How do you promote Sibling Chill in your family? We’d love to know.