5 Secrets to Encourage a Loving Sibling Relationship
“The greatest gift our parents ever gave us was each other.” – Unknown
Siblings are built-in friends for life. A playmate, a listening ear, an annoyance, and a toy stealer. Some days brothers and sisters play together beautifully and other days they argue over every little thing. What gives?
As moms we have the priviledge of setting the expectations for our families and the tone of our homes. Through the years, I’ve noticed there are little things I can do as a mother to foster healthy sibling relationships. To give us more of those play-together-without-arguing days.
Of course, there will be sibling fights. That’s natural when you spend a lot of time with someone , but parents can be intentional about helping their children get along, support one another, and cherish each other’s hearts.
As a mom one of the most beautiful things about raising children is seeing the three of them interact together. Sure I think some of it is genetic, but I believe you can encourage a loving sibling relationship between your children from the start.
So How Do You Create Lasting Sibling Bonds?
Family is big for us. We love spending time with each other and we desire a strong connection between all of us. To do this we strive to create a home atmosphere that is warm, filled with grace, and a place where we are completely loved and accepted.
Our hope is when we create this type of atmosphere we naturally encourage a warm sibling bond.
Now I’m not saying our children never fight or argue. That’s totally unrealistic! But at the end of the day, we strive to help our children create a lasting bond.
So here are it is:
5 secrets to encouraging a loving sibling relationship
ONE: Encourage Love & Kindness
This sounds simple and it really is! Find ways to encourage connection and love between siblings. Involve them in the small things. For example, when we tuck our toddler in at night our preschooler is part of the routine. She loves to pray for him, say goodnight and pat his back for a minute.
We also encourage our children to serve one another. For example, one of your children is struggling to open their chip bag, instead of doing it for them, ask a sibling to help. Kids can help each other and these simple routine adjustments help your children build a lasting bond.
Yes it’s easier to do it yourself sometimes, but encourage your children to help each other.
If the youngest needs help zipping his coat or opening the toy box, promote the relationship be asking the oldest sibling to help. Find ways they can do things together, which leads us to our next tip.
TWO: Find Activities They Can Do Together
Sometimes with age differences it is difficult to find play activities that both children want to do. I created a post with 20+ activities older and younger siblings can play together!
It doesn’t matter if there is an age difference or sex difference. We have two girls and a boy, but they find ways to all play together. They love being outside, playing play-doh or coloring together. An eight year old and a two year old can colo. There are ways for kids all of stages to play together!
Our oldest children are polar opposites. Our daughter loves all things fancy and LEGO. On the other hand, our son loves to battle ANYTHING (cars, balloons, spoons, whatever.). But they still find a way to engage together.
One of the best things I do is send them outside. Exploring, hiking, swinging and rolling down the hill are things most kids enjoy.
Take time to watch your children. Study them. What do they like to do? When do you notice them thriving together? Find what works for your children.
THREE: Use Your Judgment
Sometimes when we push things on our children they don’t like it! In turn, they may do the opposite. Be aware of your child’s feelings and use discernment.
Have they had enough of each other? Sometimes a little alone time is all they need to stop fighting.
I try to look at the personalities of my children and gauge how they may be feeling. This can be hard for a 4 year old to do. But if they need alone time or time apart allow them this time.
You can set up opportunities for them to play together, but if they really aren’t feeling it, that is okay to. Don’t push it.
There are other indirect things you can do instead (keep reading!).
FOUR: Make Your Marriage a Priority
Huh? I thought we were talking about sibling relationships?
Interestingly enough, researchers have found that a positive marital relationship was a strong predictor when it came to an older siblings’ ability to regulate feelings of jealousy (Volling, McElwain, Miller, 2002).
The researchers believed this occurred because the parents possibly served as effective models of problem solving or their positive marriage fostered a pleasant family environment. Either way, take time to love your spouse.
FIVE: Pray For Their Relationship
I can’t stress this enough. There is only so much we can do as parents and then we have to trust and believe that God will take care of it. Certainly there will be times when siblings fight or disappoint one another.
But we can pray they will be loving friends and learn to show compassion to one another. Our 5 specific prayers for true friendship can be used with siblings as well.
Having a brother and sister myself, I must say my sister is one of my best friends. She knows me better than anyone and I’m so glad we have a relationship!
Sure there were times when we annoyed each other, but at the end of the day we are family. And we grew up knowing the importance of family.
BONUS Tip Below: Are you finding a lot of sibling jealousy? Try this!
BONUS TIP: Individual Date Time
Many parents worry that with a new sibling, the oldest child starts to feel left out or have a difficult time sharing attention with the baby. One way to counteract this is to set up individual dates with each child.
Be intentional about spending quality parent-child time. This can help reduce sibling rivalry and jealously.
I once heard someone say if their child was born on October 10th they would set aside the 10th of every month for a one-on-one date with the child. I love this idea!
It doesn’t have to be a huge expensive date, but make sure you are setting aside some one-on-one time. Everyone loves special mommy or daddy time.
So how do you encourage your kids to have a warm sibling relationship? Have you found something to helps create a lasting bond? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Volling, B.L., McElwain, N.L., & Miller, A.L. (2002). Emotion regulation in context: The jealousy complex between young siblings and its relations with child and family characteristics. Child Development, 73, 581-600.
I totally agree with you, with all the points you outlined here. you are really doing a great here. Allow them to do things together; and also engage them in daily family devotion and allow them to read the Bible together.
I perfectly share in the view that siblings are given space alone to bond occasionally. I have observed that my sons quarrel less when they are left alone by themselves while we are out.