I think the way I learned to encourage positive sibling relationships was by watching the way my mom raised myself and my siblings. Even now we get along despite large and small age gaps between all of us. I live in the same city as one brother and one sister and I feel so lucky that I get to. If I ever need help they’re always willing and they know I’m here if they need someone too.
I had my first two girls super close in age on purpose. Though my third was a surprise I actually love having three girls close together. My closest sister was born when I was 6 and I loved having a little sister but I always wished she was closer in age. That’s why when I had my girls I decided that I wanted them to have a really good relationship.
I’m not saying they don’t fight because they do. They steal each others toys, sneak each others snacks, and sometimes even hit each other. But more often than not all three of them will happily play for hours together. I sometimes feel a little sad because I am always their first best friend and I get a little left out but mostly I’m happy to fold the laundry in peace.
So here are some ways to encourage positive sibling relationships
A new sibling is as a positive thing
Early on I talk about how they are going to get a baby and that they get to help take care of the baby. I always act excited about it and never like they’ll be replaced or that it will be hard. When the baby is born I let the older sibling help as much as they can. It’s a little scary letting a toddler hold a baby but it’s important that they feel involved and responsible.
Maintain a good parental relationship
Early on make sure they know a new sibling does not change the dynamic between the two of you. Well, maybe it does but never in a negative way. I always called my eldest my ‘bestie’ and that didn’t change when she got a sister.
I also continue a tradition my mom started that we call “turns”. Basically, whenever she needed to run errands she would take one of us. We started with the eldest and we all took “turns” being the only one to go. Usually we also got a treat but normally it was a treat we got to share with everyone when we got home. I think that was helpful because we felt special because we got to pick the treat. Then we felt special again because we got to be the one to share the treat with our siblings.
One on one time
I know sometimes it is hard to get out the door with the big siblings, especially if childcare is difficult. Sometimes everyone only gets one “turn” a month (or even less!). So in addition I have individual time with each one each day. My 2 year old gets private story time before nap. My 4 year old gets an hour with me while everyone else naps. Usually we practice numbers or letters or do another fun activity. The baby gets snuggles, cuddles, and sometimes nursing before naps.
Encourage their friendship
I know this one seems kind of obvious but it kind of surprised me at how well it worked. My oldest two were going through a patch where they seemed to constantly be fighting. It was getting to where everyone was just ornery all day. I finally started talking about how they’re all besties. I used to say “who’s my bestie?” and they would say each others and their own names. Now I say, “who’s your bestie?” And they’ll say each others name and sometimes my name last. Just talking about how they’re so lucky to have each other and really encouraging their friendship made a huge difference. I didn’t even do anything, I just talked about it.
I have a great relationship with my seven siblings and I really hope my children are lucky enough to have the same.
What are some ways you have found works to encourage sibling relationships?
For some really good tips on how to deal when your kids fight (not if, they will fight it’s guaranteed) check out this post by mommy blogger Amber at Faust Island.
If you’re still in the trenches read this post by mommy blogger Crystal. It does get worse before it gets better – but it does get better.