Growing up, I had many siblings; I had a biological brother, a step brother, a half brother, a half sister, and even an adopted sister. With many siblings, you would think I wouldn’t need other friends. My story isn’t one with a happy ending. None of my siblings are my best friends. Some months we don’t even talk.
It’s the sad fact above that causes me, as a parent to two children, to want to instill in them the importance of being friends with your siblings. Don’t “put up with them” because you have too. Form a bond with them and stay in touch as the years go by.
My kids are four years apart. They fight like brothers and sisters do, but boy, are they close. We began this: Word of the Week, plan where I give them a word for the week, and we find exciting ways to implement it in their daily lives. The first week, the word was: Appreciation. At breakfast, we discussed what that word meant, and how to use it as we went about our day.
Later that day, I realized both kids were being unusually quiet. Oh, no! Right? As I walk out into the living area, I see both of the kids standing on stools near the washing machine and dryer. They had put the clean laundry into the basket, and my oldest was digging the wet clothes from the washing machine. She would hand the clothes to her brother and he would put them in the dryer. Can we say “Teamwork”! I was so beyond proud of them. Not only were they using the word of the week, and the correct way, but they were working together.
Here are some other ways you can help build your child’s friendship with their siblings:
- Be Supportive: Teaching your child to be supportive of what their brother and/or sister’s achievements and goals is easy. If Suzy is dancing in the upcoming ballet recital, encourage the sibling to accompany her to dance practice. Seeing Suzy put in the effort and practice will inspire not only encouragement from the sibling, but maybe even create a common hobby for them both.
- Teach Respect: This should be done anyway, and I’m sure you know that already. But, teaching your children to be respectful of each other is important. Fighting is common, but it shouldn’t be a competition to see who is better, or who can disrespect the best.
- Nip Jealousy: Remember when I said above that my childhood wasn’t all that peachy? Jealousy was a big issue between my siblings and I, namely between me and my half sister. It took years, and well into our adulthood, for me to stop being jealous of her. I didn’t have anything to be jealous of. But, because she was more popular, and in my opinion, prettier, I was jealous. Competition can be healthy, but do it in moderation and refrain from using the term, “loser”. These are surefire ways to spark jealousy among siblings. Also, DON’T CHOOSE A FAVORITE. Kids can see straight through that.
- Make sure they have other friends: Kids need to know that it’s okay to have other friends outside of their brother or sister. While you can hope to create a lasting friendship between the siblings, it’s healthy to have other friends too. In doing so, go back to the respect part of this post and also teach them to respect the other friendships their siblings may have.
- Encourage Communication: This can begin at a very early age and can last a lifetime. Communication is so important in any relationship, but teaching our kids to talk to their siblings and listen as well, is so important. Imagine, Bobby deciding that he wants to date other guys, but he’s afraid what mom and dad will say. Who does he turn to? His sibling. This is why it’s so important to encourage communication and friendship among siblings. The big topics that may not be able to be shared with Mom and Dad, you’ll want your children to share with someone. It could be a matter of life and death. I know that’s speaking drastically, but it’s true if you really think about it.
My kids are still young, and for now, they are each other’s best friend. They share a room and when my daughter decides to sleep on the couch, my son will get upset if he wakes up and finds her not in her bed. When one child falls or bumps his arm on a table, the other will ask, “you good?” Hurt feelings happen every so often around here, and they will offer hugs.
Friendships may come and go, but siblings are forever. You can’t get rid of them, even if you think you may want to. When you think about it, you’ll soon realize that a healthy sibling friendship that has spent years being nurtured, will always be the rock that everyone needs.
If you have young children, it’s important to instill this idea in them now. It’s normal to fight, and bicker back and forth with your sibling, but the friendship is so important. Teach your children about respecting each other, boundaries, standing up for each other, and how to work together. I assure you, the friendship will be strong, unbreakable, and a lead to a healthy future.
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