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Monday Mom challenge: Make peace with your siblings

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Family unity

Rare is the family that doesn't experience some level of sibling rivalry -- and it doesn't end when childhood ends. Even the closest of adult siblings can experience some level of competition and conflict. When you're a mom trying to address sibling rivalry among your children, engaging in such rivalry with your own sibling can be hypocritical. Rather than denying it's happening, address it -- and you may well gain some insight into helping your kids deal with their sibling rivalry, too.

Family unity

Sibling rivalry is a classic family issue. Experts tell us how it avoid it outright, but it still seems to happen. As adults, the sibling relationsip can seem even more complex: We're not kids anymore, but our siblings can take us back to that very childish emotional place in a heartbeat. We love our siblings (we hope!) more than ever, but they drive us nuts as much as ever. You're to model appropriate sibling behavior to your kids, so what's a mom to do?

Sibling rivalry happens

Even in the closest of families, sibling rivalry happens. Pretending it doesn't exist is not an option! Accept it.

That's right: Accept it — in a positive way. Think about how that rivalry spurred you to do positive things in your life, whether it was trying out for the varsity soccer team or taking a professional risk that has been very rewarding.

Rivalry can also, of course, compel not-so-positive behaviors. Recognize those issues, too, accept that they happened and learn from them. Then move on and channel any residual rivalry in a positive, constructive direction.

You are individuals

Just as your children are individuals and it's virtually impossible to treat them exactly the same, so it was and is with you and your siblings. Assuming that your parents' treatment of each of you wasn't blatantly tilted, you can be pretty sure they were struggling with the same balance you do: meeting each child's needs individually and within the family, with varying circumstances and differing personality traits. Your parents likely never approached any situation thinking they would favor one child over the other and truly worked to be the best parent they could be for each of you. Just like you, they likely faltered as much as they succeeded. (Gives you a whole new respect for your parents, doesn't it?)

You and your siblings — like your kids — are unique individuals. Direct comparisons to siblings either by yourself or others is unfair. You each bring strengths and weaknesses to the greater family whole. Respect that.

Focus on shared experiences

For all your rivalry, you and your siblings share a unique bond. You and your sibling(s) make a set that is the only group of people in the world who can understand what it was like to grow up in your family — both the wonderful and the not so wonderful, the typical and the quirky.

Recognize this important insight as you seek to accept your siblings — and accept the sibling rivalry that has helped shape who you are today. From there you can talk with your siblings — and maybe even joke with them! — about the rivalry that shaped your lives and the experience of being in the same family. Making peace with your siblings may not totally elminiate your sense of rivalry, but it can take you to a whole new place of understanding.

More of our Monday Mom series

Rare is the family that doesn't experience some level of sibling rivalry -- and it doesn't end when childhood ends. Even the closest of adult siblings can experience some level of competition and conflict. When you're a mom trying to address sibling rivalry among your children, engaging in such rivalry with your own sibling can be hypocritical. Rather than denying it's happening, address it -- and you may well gain some insight into helping your kids deal with their sibling rivalry, too.
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