Bridging the sibling gap
While your kids might be of very different ages, they don’t have to be of very different mindset. Follow some of the wise tips and ideas to help your family function as a cohesive unit.
It is important to find a balance between having shared experiences among the whole family and allowing each child to explore his or her strengths and interests. Finding new activities for the family to try together can build cohesiveness among the siblings as they feed their curiosities, face uncertainties and master new challenges. It's equally as important and beneficial to talk about these experiences in order to reflect upon what everyone likes and dislikes, laughing about occurrences that may have happened during the activity and planning for the next outing.
Begin a Family Ritual
Creating a family ritual can bring siblings together through a wonderful bond. Amanda Gordon, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, recommends a rather easy dinner conversation that worked well in her family. "Rather than simply asking a child what he or she learned at school that day, parents can be more creative and ask specific questions that illicit responses other than the standard nothing. In my family we used to do a 'good thing bad thing' at dinner each night. Each member of the family talked about one good thing that happened during the day and one not so good thing," explains Amanda. This allows for a good exchange of conversation and participation from all family members. Siblings can relate to one another's experiences with comments and encouragement.
Another family bonding and sibling activity can be to create collages or picture albums after family vacations, events or holidays. At most of these events, the whole family is participating. Therefore, the entire family will be featured in the photos. Mom and or dad can save special travel brochures, invitations or cards from these experiences to add to the project. Children at a very young age can pick out pictures and photos they enjoy. Older children can cut out images and add words and comments to the pages. This activity brings everyone together as they share in conversation about the activity and reminisce about the enjoyable experience.
Challenges draw groups of all sorts together to in order to reach a common goal. This works for the same for a family unit. Amanda Gordon adds, " A family challenge can take any form, but the idea is to do something that changes the family's normal routine and forces everyone out of their usual routine, while teaching a life lesson at the same time." Some weekly activities that work well for diverse ages include weekly recycling, board games, group clean ups, yard work, organizing and other activities that might seem to be chores, but can be transformed into fun challenges and teamwork exercises. Even hunting for a lost article of clothing, the dog's bone or mom's keys that she misplaced can turn into a family bonding activity.
Dr. Alison Kravit adds, "Research shows that older sibling adjustment is a major factor in younger siblings adjustment. Social psychology says the best way to achieve cohesiveness is for each member to play a part in achieving a common goal whereas the goal cannot be reached without contributions by each team member. Scavenger hunts, obstacle courses, relay races, etc., are all good ways to build a team." These are enjoyable for all ages and wonderful opportunities abound in parks, backyards and even your own home.
Amanda Gordon also offers one very important tip. She recommends turning off cell phones, the television and computer during these sibling-bonding experiences. Let the focus of the activity be the family interaction and communication, rather than constant texting, noise of a television or distraction of the computer. This will further enhance the experience and allow for more human communication.