Relationships Among Siblings
Relationships among siblings will be as unique as the individuals themselves and with 80% of the world’s population having siblings this means that a seemingly incomprehensible number of different types of sibling relationships must exist in the world today. Despite all of the minute ways in which sibling relationships may differ, some researchers consider these relationships to have the greatest impact on individual’s lives – greater even than relationships with parents or spouses. While it would be nice to assume that all of these relationships impact siblings in positive ways, that is not always the case. Sibling conflicts can and do occur, but there is much that parents can do to encourage healthy relationships between siblings.
Causes of Sibling ConflictSibling conflicts can be capricious or serious, rare of frequent, long lasting or quickly resolved. Common causes of sibling conflict include:
- Children become bored easily, and fighting alleviates their boredom.
- Children become hungry or tired and then have a lower threshold for irritation.
- Children engage in competition or competitive play that results in conflict.
- Older children do not understand that younger children may not be as capable as they are, and misunderstandings result.
- Children are naturally selfish and can not yet look at a situation from someone else’s point of view, which means they will only concentrate on what they perceive as insults or injustices against them.
- Children often hold grudges. Often times new conflicts will result that seem insignificant, but are magnified by an old grudge.
Avoiding Sibling ConflictsVery often conflicts result from sibling rivalry, or the jealousy and competition that naturally arise between most siblings. Parents can take a number of steps towards mitigating sibling rivalry, such as by:
- Giving each of their children special time to have their undivided attention.
- Frequently showing love and affection, as well as giving praise and support, to each child.
- Avoiding making comparisons between each child’s abilities or development.
- Avoid labelling the children and instead respecting each as a well-rounded individual.
- Encouraging each child to develop distinct interests and hobbies.
Encouraging Positive Sibling RelationshipsJust as parents can do a great deal to avoid sibling conflicts in their households, there is also much that they can do to encourage positive sibling relationships. Parents can:
- Model the respect and love that they would like siblings to show each other.
- Provide opportunities for siblings to spend quality time together, even if it means insisting on sibling-only activities and events.
- Encourage each child to share a special talent or skill with siblings.
- Support children in cooperative, rather than competitive, play.
- Require siblings to talk through their differences without acting as an external judge or referee.
- Ask siblings to support each other before, during and after events such as sports matches or artistic performances.
- Seek help for siblings who truly do not get along, such as by engaging a professional mediator or family therapist.