The relationship between siblings can be an elaborate love, fight balance in which individuals know each other’s deepest weaknesses and greatest loves. It is a lifelong relationship that, when supported and fostered, can provide deep stability. It can also be a destructive relationship in which one needs to walk away. When children are young, they are figuring out their relationship with their siblings; how they fit in the family and how to get the things they need such as love, acceptance and care. Older siblings may be adjusting to sharing time while younger siblings are figuring out where and how they fit in. At the same time, parents are trying to give themselves fairly while supporting each child’s individuality.

Here are some tips to help support siblings in the family:

1.Teach them to fight fair: No one gets along with someone all of the time, so guide children through disagreements versus squelching them. Adults have difficulty with conflict resolution, so their immediate response may be to encourage children to “stop fighting.” However, this often does not solve the situation. A more constructive response would be to allow both sides to be heard and feelings to be acknowledged while helping to guide them to a conclusion. This assists them in learning a process that, after lots and lots of practice and guidance, they may begin to use themselves.

2. Understand that siblings may need breaks from each other: Some days, children need more space, or they may have trouble sharing their space. The particular is especially true if the siblings share a room. Teach children to realize and understand when someone else needs time alone. Help them separate and allow independent time, which also helps teach them respect. You may find them seeking each other out after, but if it is by their own choice, they may be ready to work together.

3. Spend time with each child on purpose: Children need to know that you value them individually. Make time to spend with them individually, doing something you enjoy together. The more they see that you value them, the less they will feel that they need to fight for your attention.

4. Show children how they are special and build their respect for each other: Whether at dinner or through special notes, let children know what you appreciate about them. Make this a family habit that everyone shares something about someone else. When relationships are focused on positive, then there will be less damage when negative things happen.

5. Never compare: Each child is unique, with their own strengths and weaknesses. When comparisons are made, it pits one child against another, which affects their relationship with the parents and siblings and causes them to doubt themselves. In private conversations, discuss traits of children that are good, as well as things they need to work on as individuals. This will help them work on these issues so that they can become their own, better individuals.

When you help children develop their sense of self as well as teach them problem-solving skills to utilize within their family, they are better equipped to complete this within their own life, leading to stronger and healthier relationships. Siblings may not always be the best of friends, but they will develop lifelong respect.

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