As a parent, you were likely not prepared for your kiddos to be out of school a week earlier than expected—not to mention the entire month of April.
With playdates out of the question, libraries closed, rainy days, and other activities canceled, your family is likely spending A LOT of time at home together.
However, if you have more than one child at home, this type of expectation puts a strain on the sibling relationship. Recently, have you noticed more bickering, whining, or problems sharing? These are challenges that all siblings go through, but it can feel amplified when everyone is in close quarters.
This week, we provide tips for managing sibling challenges.
Sharing is a skill that needs to be taught, especially during toddlerhood. One of the best things you can do is set age-appropriate limits on how long your child can play with a toy before they need to give it to their sibling who wants a turn. Toddlers are just beginning to learn about ownership and can be possessive about their things. They think everything belongs to them, so they may be possessive about their sibling’s things, too. Here are some points about sharing to consider:
- Encourage your children to take turns with toys, books, a room or more. When one gives a toy to the other as their turn is over, thank them and assure them they will get another turn. Setting a timer sometimes helps if your kiddos are especially sensitive to “fairness.” Offering a substitute often helps as well.
- Allow your child to have a special toy or book they don’t want to share.
- Is there a stuffed animal they don’t want a younger sibling to touch? Can it be kept out of reach of a younger sibling?
- Create fun times together where cooperation makes a difference.
- Make cookies together where each sibling has a special task.
- Do fun and active activities together
- Put on their favorite music and dance it out! Bundle up or grab the umbrella and walk around the park.
- Time doesn’t always have to be shared. Children can have together and separate time from each other, which is especially important to children who are introverted and need time by themselves.
- Cultivate “sharing” by caring about each other’s feelings. Caring in this way will help your children when conflict does arise. Teach empathy not only for each other, but for others too.
- When one child takes a tumble and starts to cry, encourage their sibling to comfort them.
- Have your child help you out when you put a band-aid on their sibling’s “owwy.”
One reason sibling rivalry crops up is when children notice or think that they are being treated differently than their sibling. It can be something as minimal as an older sibling getting to attend a summer camp, or a younger sibling getting special attention from Grandma—kids NOTICE. Treating each child exactly the same is almost impossible to achieve, and can even provoke the very rivalry you are trying to stop. Children are at different ages and stages and have different temperaments and personalities. Tell your children that sometimes one of you needs more, and sometimes their sibling needs more.
Here are some possible questions and responses:
• Why did my sister get a backpack and I didn’t?
She needs it to carry her books to school. You get to stay home with me. When you go to school, you can have a backpack.
• Why do we have to watch a baby video?
Your sister loves it and she gets to pick now. You like different videos. You get to choose what to watch after she goes to sleep.
• Why can’t I listen to music now?
Your brother has to concentrate on his homework. You get to pick out what music to listen to later when he’s finished.
Find time for solo attention
Each of your children is unique and special. If possible, give each child some one-on-one attention every day that tailors to their interests and your relationship. Your older child might enjoy 20 minutes reading from their favorite chapter book, or playing a few levels on their video game with you. While your toddler, might enjoy building train tracks or playing “store.”
These small moments throughout your day can help stabilize you and your child’s individual relationship, which can go a long way in helping keep the peace in your children’s relationships with each other.
By paying attention to your children’s relationship with each other, you are supporting them to create a lifelong connection of love and support. Taking a few extra minutes to pay attention to how they are interacting, praising cooperative play and stepping in to provide some structure will go a long way towards this goal. Most kiddos want to spend time with you (in fact it’s what they want most!), and they pay close attention to make sure they get their fair share. By giving them each regular, predictable time one on one with you, you are helping them feel secure and they will trust that they will get what they need.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Mender and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).