This month we’ve been talking about how the strong-willed child can affect the relationships in our own home. One of the relationships that can be affected is the sibling relationship.
Today we talk with Child and Family Studies major, Laura Tesch to learn how she helps her six kids develop friendships that will last a lifetime.
LISTEN ABOVE OR READ THE SUMMARY BELOW
Why it’s important for siblings to be close
- It helps the home feel more peaceful-I think every parent wants their home to be a peaceful and happy place. If you can help foster close sibling relationships, that will help decrease the tension between your kids. It is important to remember, that siblings will only get along about 50% of the time. That is normal and healthy.
- The sibling relationship is one of the longest lasting human relationships each of us will have- Friends will come and go, even cousins will come and go. One day parents will pass away. But siblings, are there from the minute you are born and throughout most of you life. Wouldn’t it be great if the people you knew the longest were also close friends?
- Siblings can offer love and support that kids need- Life can be harsh and very challenging. We all need people who will believe in us, cheer us on, see the best in us, and support us in hard times. Siblings can be some of the best people to do this for us.
Tips for fostering positive sibling relationships
Tip #1 Talk about your sibling relationships
A really great, non-lecturing way to teach your kids about the value of sibling relationships is to talk about how important your sibling relationships are to you. Some ways you can do this are:
- Share happy memories you made with your siblings
- If your sibling called you, tell your child and tell them what that meant to you
- Schedule times to be with your siblings
- Let your family know if one of your siblings is struggling and ask them to keep that sibling in their thoughts
- Show your kids pictures of you and your siblings
- Call your siblings on their birthdays, have the kids be involved in the phone call
- Help your siblings when they need help, take the kids along to teach them that family supports each other
- Attend your siblings events if they participate in any
What if you don’t have close sibling relationships?
Talk to your children about how sad you are that you don’t have a close friendship with your siblings. Let them know what it would mean to you to be close to your brothers or sisters.
Tip #2 Help your children be aware of each other’s feelings
One of the most important roles we have as parents is something called “Emotional Coaching”.
“Emotional Coaching is a term coined by researcher and marriage therapist Jon Gottman. His research shows that kids need their parents to teach them how to be aware of their own emotions and the emotions of others.
This is done by simply stating what emotions you see your kids experiencing when they are experiencing them.
If your child looks sad, say “You are looking sad.”
If your child made a mistake and is disappointed, say “You’re disappointed that you made that mistake.”
If your child is laughing, say “You thought that was funny. You look so happy!”
This process helps children begin to identify what they are feeling and attach the feeling to a specific emotion.
When children become more aware of their own emotions, they can start to learn to manage them and they can become more aware of other’s emotions.
The home is the perfect place to practice
We want our children to be aware of and sensitive to the feelings of those around them at work, at school, and in relationships. The perfect place to practice is at home. But they will need your help at first.
How to start teaching your child to recognize and be sensitive to their siblings emotions
Whenever there is an altercation of some sort between two siblings, you have an opportunity to do some coaching. You can approach your kids and ask them what they are each feeling. You can even help name the emotion for them. After that, you can ask them to think about what their sibling is feeling. Help them identify what emotions their sibling is experiencing.
After doing this several times, your kids will be able to point out their own emotions and their siblings emotions pretty quickly.
This is also a good opportunity to teach them how to apologize if they’ve hurt the other’s feelings. You can learn how to teach kids to apologize here.
If you teach your children this skill when they are younger, it will help them be aware of and sensitive to the emotions of their siblings as they as. What a great skill for them to have.
Bonus Tip: Teach them conflict resolution skills
Sibling relationships also give our kids plenty of opportunities to practice good conflict resolution skills. Learn the steps to conflict resolution here.
Tip #3 Find opportunities for your kids to connect with each other
If you want your kids to have close relationships when they grow up, it’s important for them to create memories and connections with each other now. Here are some of the ways we have done this in our own home.
Do family activities together
Our family loves to be outdoors. We take lots of opportunities to go on hikes, go camping, go dirt biking and even just go on walks together. This gets the kids away from all of their friends, electronics, and other distractions and lets them focus on each other. I don’t know why they seem to be nicer when we’re out doing outdoor activities, but they just are.
Find what activities your family enjoys doing and put them on your calendar. Get your kids away from all other distractions so they only have each other to interact with.
Have your kids teach other
This tip has worked really well for us. Instead of telling the kids to try to play together, we will have one child teach another child how to do something. This strokes the ego of the child we’re asking to teach and gives them an opportunity to connect with each other. What often happens is the teaching child will be really cute with the learning child and cheer the learning child on.
So if you have a child that’s good at sports, legos, drawing, reading…have them teach one of their siblings how to do those things as well.
Have them attend each others events
We’ve had kids in sports, music, and dance. We try to have the siblings go to some of the games or performances to show their support for their siblings. We don’t make them go to all the events. Shoot, we can’t even make it to all the events with six kids! But we do feel it’s important that they see what the other siblings are involved in and cheer them on.
Teach your kids that being a family, means that you are a part of a team. Refer to your family as a team often, work as a team, play as a team. Teach your kids what it means to be family and model that the best you can in your own life.
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