Just over a year ago, I wrote about how I had managed to prevent sibling rivalry between my two children. I spoke of the things that my husband and I did from the moment we learned I was pregnant to prepare our daughter for life with a sibling. The first year went so smoothly that we thought we were in the clear.
Then today, as I was trying to finish up with an important phone call, all I could hear were those same two children screaming and screeching, and my words came back to haunt me.
Managing sibling rivalry isn't a one-time project. It will crop up at different stages, and although it's a normal part of growing up, it shouldn't be ignored.
As child, adolescent and family psychotherapist Katie Hurley explains, "Sibling relationships are often a child's first introduction to the world of friendship. Sibling relationships provide lessons in sharing, communication, frustration tolerance, coping skills, working together and having fun."
So, with that in mind, here are five tips to help you cope…
When an argument erupts, take a minute to rule out boredom or hunger. Try offering a snack or a walk in the fresh air to help your children regroup.
Catch your children when they're getting along and tell them how it makes you feel to see them playing happily. Children love to please their parents and praising them when you spot desirable behavior makes a huge impact.
Spend one-on-one time with each child. This can be tough to do, but giving each child time when they're the center of your attention can make a tremendous difference. Make the most of this time by truly engaging and listening more than you talk.
Stay out of sibling arguments as much as possible and allow them to practice conflict resolution. If they try to involve you, calmly tell them that how the argument started and who is to blame isn't important. Encourage them to form a plan for moving beyond the argument.
Identify activities that require collaboration. Hang a large sheet of paper on the wall, provide crayons and markers, and have them work together to choose a theme for their mural. Once they're done, ask each child to identify what he or she contributed and then ask them to point out their favorite thing that the other contributed.
Siblings provide each other with a safe place to practice the skills that they'll need throughout life. By encouraging them to work through their conflicts, you are equipping them with tools that will help foster their self-confidence and maybe bring you a bit of peace and quiet.
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