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As a mum to 3 young boys, the last thing I would want to see is for them to be in tears, name-calling, and yelling at each other. It can get exhausting when you find yourself in their moments, and you have to be the referee again. Hence the importance of building strong sibling bonds.
Siblings are the ones whom we know we can rely on emotionally, yet it can be more difficult to maintain this close bond than with a buddy not related by blood.
Although it is near to impossible to have perfect sibling relationships, it is never too late to start building sibling bonds from the start. It is good to start preparing your older child from the time you are pregnant. Depending on his age, you can slowly break the news to him and get him involved with the plannings and preparations. This will instill the responsibility of being an elder brother in him.
The American Journal of Psychiatry found that ‘people who were emotionally close to their siblings have lesser risks of having depression and higher life satisfaction’.
Besides improved mental health, the benefits of positive sibling relationships also include increased sympathy, compassion, and empathy. The list is endless.
With so much good to positive sibling relationships, why then do siblings still fight?
No matter their ages, the reasons why siblings fight can include:
- feel dominant,
- feeling bored, thus they find it exciting to annoy a sibling,
- connect with their sibling,
- become the ‘favored one’ by making the other sibling look bad.
But, things can get messy and turn negative when they are not taught right from wrong. Not every fight needs a discipline, first understand the root of what caused the disagreement.
This guest post was written by Juliana Lee from Millennial Mom at Work. Learn more about Juliana from her author profile at the bottom of this post!
Here are 8 easy ways to help our children build strong sibling bonds!
#1 Teach Siblings to Support And Respect One Another
Each day before my kids go to school, I’ll tell my older child, “Keep a lookout for your younger brother”, and then I will whisper to my younger child, “Keep an eye on your brother ok?”.
This way they know that they have each other for support and help. It turned out it was much easier than I expected when they have to wait for each other at the school gate after school. By learning to look out for each other, they have formed a bond of unconditional love.
When one sibling is hurt, encourage the others to stop play and check on the sibling. Teach them to show concern and make sure that his sister is fine. If there is an abrasion or a cut, have a child get the antiseptic cream from the cabinet. The older child can also help his brother have the wound washed under the water.
Learning to show concern and helping out, they become responsible, compassionate, and empathetic. They also learn to respect each other’s feelings.
#2 Do Not Compare One Sibling to Another
Resist from pointing out one child’s difference in front of the other siblings.
You may mean well, but to the child, you are criticizing him in front of his siblings, causing him to feel shame and not as loved as much as his siblings. This can affect their personalities, and cause resentment among themselves.
Comparing one sibling to the other will not only poison the relationship between them due to envy, but the sibling will also turn to resent the parent.
In fact, some children will show this resentment through violence towards their siblings or nasty name-callings.
#3 Teach Them to Take Turns
It can be too confusing, especially for young children, to understand the reason behind sharing their toys or attention.
You can instead teach them to take turns with a toy.
It can apply to many instances, such as when they are fighting over the TV channels.
Teach them to ask for their turn politely, “Sally, can I watch my cartoon after your episode finishes?” When one child follows through with the agreement, be sure to give her compliments and positive feedback. Thus will make her feel good about it and she will continue to do so again.
It might take a while before your children get used to this, but once they understand that all of them will have their turns fairly, you will start to see fewer squabbles and more willingness to let go of the TV control, or their favorite toy.
Modeling this kind of behavior between you and your partner or even yourself and your children is also a great way to start setting these examples for them to learn from.
#4 Don’t Interrupt Their Happy Play
Play is very important among siblings and it should be part of their routine (See Point #6).
There are many important values they can learn during their playtime, on top of strengthening their bond.
Playtimes, as we all know, are not always smooth going. When they learn to be polite with another and to take turns, they will learn to respect and sympathize. Siblings look to each other as their role model, the younger ones are always learning from their older sibling.
Allow your children to naturally transit into their happy play. Do not force the older child to play with his younger siblings if he doesn’t want to.
#5 Avoid Being The Referee
It is very common for siblings to disagree with one another, who is allowed to use the blue crayon first, who gets to shower first, etc…
Allow your children to argue without you stepping in. Let them learn to talk it out until they can agree on something. One of them will eventually go over to mommy, hoping you will ‘rescue’ and take his side.
It can be difficult to watch but refrain from becoming a part of the dispute. Especially if you end up taking sides, causing unhappiness among them. Should disagreements escalate, you can first separate them to let them cool off, then try to prompt them to think of what started the disagreement.
Again, instead of solving the problems for them, guide them in a calm manner to find their own resolutions.
Kids have a special ability to silently agree among themselves when they realized there is no helpline for them. They will be forced to listen to one another to continue their play.
Before you know it, they are playing happily again as nothing happened. When you stay out of their squabbles or act as a calm guide, you are teaching them to manage and control their own emotions and to confidently learn to solve problems on their own.
#6 Start A Routine For Siblings To Do Together
Every morning and every night you can instill a habit in your children to say “Good morning”, “Good night” and “I love you” to each other. It’s a good reminder to them that they are all important to one another.
Have the same bedtime routine – brush teeth, change into pajamas, bedtime story, and finally off to bed.
Keep the routines consistent, even on weekends and holidays. Our children thrive on consistency & routines.
#7 Encourage Activities Which Siblings Can Work Together
Like companies that focus on team building activities, we want our children to be able to work together in a team.
Father’s Day is coming up, you can get your children to design a Father’s Day card, or even better bring them out to choose a gift for Daddy.
Have them come up with a list of what Daddy likes and where to get them. For the record, these cute little customized Father’s Day Cards look like they could be a big hit!
In addition, household chores make a good bonding activity too.
Everyone can have a different role, and they can take turns to be that role. The older child can be washing the dishes, while the younger one puts the dirty laundry into the washer. They can tidy up their room together, or walk the dog together.
No matter what the activity is, let them do the plannings together, make decisions together, and all you need to do is to ensure safety and make it fun!
#8 Have Family Activities Together
Family activities can include a weekend family board game followed by movie night to weekly hiking trips. There are many things that a family can do together, it does not have to be extravagant or expensive.
Building strong sibling bonds takes patience, time, and effort as a family. When we learn to accept each other’s flaws and strengths, we are teaching our children to love, respect, appreciate, and empathize with another living being.
It is perfectly normal for our children to get frustrated and upset when things do not go their way. The same ways we have our conflicts and disagreements with our spouse.
We need to understand that every child at different ages understands and goes through different emotions. When we model and pass on that understanding, our children learn and model the same thing to his or her siblings.
It becomes a positive cycle, and that is how we can help our children to strengthen the bonds with their siblings.
Have any family activities that you just LOVE? Drop a comment below to share them!
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Thanks for reading: 8 Practical Ways to Build Strong Sibling Bonds
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About Juliana Lee
Juliana Lee is the writer behind Millennial Mom At Work, a mom to 3 highly energized boys, a dog, and a cat. She enjoys writing about parenting tips and personal growth to empower parents for an enjoyable and fulfilling parenting journey. Besides hoping for world peace, she believes that everyone needs to learn to be confident, optimistic and be proud of their beauty to be happy.
Connect with Juliana & see more of her work on her blog and social pages below: