Oftentimes as parents, we accept the notion that siblings can not and will not get along, especially in the summer. While some sibling conflict is normal, there are also things parents can do to set a positive tone in the home. Consistent, intentional efforts to cultivate a positive relationship will help children learn to appreciate their siblings and think of each other in a more positive way. The following are a few suggestions to begin creating a positive tone so that your children will not only tolerate each other, but enjoy each other:
Sibling Day/Night: Get balloons, “celebrate siblings”, have each pick out a special food item or favorite movie he or she knows the other will like and enjoy (with your guidance). Allow them to spend time together with the focus being celebrating each other. Base the time frame & planned activities on your knowledge of what causes sibling conflict (and avoid this).
Encouragement Box: Help your child make a box to receive encouraging messages from their sibling. Monitor & assist as they each daily or weekly write encouraging messages. Even if it is challenging, it will help them begin to think in a more positive direction toward their siblings. Younger children will have more difficulty as their abstract thinking and cause & effect thinking may not be developed yet. Messages may be simple. The value is in the process.
Teamwork Task: Allow your children to work together for a successful outcome. Example: Have a pizza night, in which you allow your children to make a pizza together. Compliment their teamwork & the outcome.
Mealtime Messages: Laminate your child's favorite pictures (with their sibling) on cardstock, scrapbook paper or mats & allow your children to write messages of love and appreciation to be read at mealtimes.
Family Question Game: Introduce the question game with a list of creative questions to be asked at mealtime. Allow each child to answer the question and ensure that all family members are listening to that child's thoughts. Dinnertime questions can be found online and in a game form online. This will teach your child to practice listening to his/her sibling.
Special Gifts or Thoughts: Occasionally ask one child to do something special for the other. Make a coupon book for each child to use for the other. Example: “20 minutes of playing your favorite game outside”.
Sometimes parents get sucked in to the conflict and end up very frustrated as they try to work out differences. Mediation can be the sole strategy of a parents' involvement with the sibling conflict issue. A broader view is to look for opportunities to recognize the positive and build on it.
Siblings provide an opportunity for our children to learn to problem-solve, deal with conflict, and also interact with others who think differently. If your children don't get along, it is never too late to work on setting a more positive tone, however, it will require repetition and patience from you as a parent. These suggestions will not yield perfect outcomes, but don't give up! Your children CAN learn to value each other and in turn have special friendships for years to come.