Summer vacation is a time of both joy and frustration for parents at home with children.
If you have more than one child, sibling conflict is expected during the long days of summer.
If you have more than two children, sibling rivalry comes with a pecking order.
How can you help the natural process of sibling rivalry, so it is doesn’t bring angst and dread to summer vacation?
1. Give children time and space apart from each other.
You don’t need a large house to do this, but giving kids the ability to play by themselves or away from the sibling they’re irritated with is helpful.
Have one child play outside while the other plays inside.
Keeping a younger sibling who pesters an older sibling away from them gives both children appropriate boundaries for their development and vice versa for older siblings who taunt younger ones.
2. Give children a certain amount of time to resolve the conflict before stepping in.
It’s healthy for sibling conflict to have the opportunity to work itself out.
Kids who learn to get along with siblings by working through conflict build relationship skills for a life-time. However, there is a proper time for a parent to step in and say, “No more.”
Being aware of your motives for resolving the conflict is important.
Do you step in immediately out of frustration or are you stepping in because the conflict escalates and needs to be dispersed?
Check your motives before taking over.
3. Plan one-on-one time with each of your children.
Sibling conflict can be rooted in jealousy or the need to get mom or dad’s attention over another child.
Spending one on one time with children gives them an internal okay-ness with who they are as a person and in the family.
They don’t feel the need to fight for time or attention from mom or dad because they have time with mom or dad all by themselves.
Children long to be seen and known.
Their placement in the family can overshadow their sense of belonging and security as an individual as they grow in their identity development.
Individual time with kids fills many needs a child has.
4. Build positive relationships between siblings during non-conflict times.
Statements like “It makes me happy to see you two getting along” or “You two are really having fun together” reinforces the positive relationship siblings have when they’re not fighting.
If non-conflict times are hard to find with siblings, find activities they both have in common and encourage them to engage in these activities together.
Two of my children are very different and often have sibling conflict.
They both enjoy playing video games and have found they have more fun when they play together.
Activities of mutual interest build long-term bridges for better relationships among siblings.
5. Don’t ignore harmful sibling conflict.
While a certain amount of sibling conflict is normal, unattended sibling conflict can be hurtful and harmful if it becomes malicious and isn’t addressed.
I hear stories from kids I work with of sibling conflict with harmful attacks either verbally, emotionally, or physically. Parents should not turn a blind eye to sibling conflict, but should have an active ear and eye for bullying behavior among siblings.
A child can be victimized in his own home if parents do not address on-going, relentless conflict among siblings.
If behavior becomes increasingly aggressive, try to find the underlying cause of the conflict and seek ways to meet the needs of both children.
These are just a few suggestions of ways to beat the heat of sibling rivalry.