By Tracy Lamperti,
Psychotherapist, Educator, Consultant
Whether your children are twins, 13 months apart or 5 years apart, they can be best friends into old age!
1. Define your intentions. – ex. My children will be kind to each other, look out for each other and have fun together.
2. Examine your beliefs and stereotypes and see how they are interfering with how you parent your children. – ex. Nobody’s children get along. Someday when they are older they will start getting along better.
3. Develop actions that match your intentions.
Key Actions that Help Facilitate Positive Sibling Relationships
#1 – Parents as Primary Role Models
1. Show your children by example with their other parent and other adults in their life that people treat people kindly. We don’t scream at each other, talk over each other, storm around or lose our temper as a general rule. On the occasion where you handle something poorly, demonstrate that when you love someone, you return to the battle ground and work it out calmly.
2. Show your children by example that you, as the parent, maintain a healthy temperament under stress. Most parents can give at least a few examples where they have handled a situation with their child the wrong way. That is understandable and expectable. Let those times be the exception. Get the support (or rest) that you need so that these are the exceptions. The primary reason for parents losing their cool with their child is that the parent doesn’t have enough strategies to deal with typical pesky child behavior. Parents tend to scream at and wack a child when they don’t have a good set of plans and resources up their sleeve.
#2 – Time and Value
I firmly believe that there is just no time for TV. Well, just a little bit of time. To have a felt sense of value in the family, children need your time. This does not mean scheduling your children for every possible activity and accompanying them. It means getting down on the floor and building something with them, or having them pound a piece of dough while you make dinner, or walking on the beach. Each child needs their own time and family time. They need to learn how to share and get along, and they need to know that their individual needs and desires are important to you as well.
#3 – Winning Teams Have Awesome Leaders
A family is like a team. The leader sets the tone. If the leader is stressed, an ineffective communicator, depressed or absent a majority of the time, the team won’t know what to do. Parents should work together, pay attention, adjust the atmosphere according to the family needs. Develop a list of the “10 Commandments of This Family” or maybe it is “3 Basic Rules that this Family Never Breaks.” Maybe it is a list of qualities of the family, like a “Family Crest.” If there is a rule, No TV During Dinner, then, no TV during dinner. Think carefully about the rules you set because they shouldn’t be broken by anyone, even you.
#4 – Working Together to Accomplish a Goal
Children who succeed are children who have a great support system. If 3 year old Julie is having trouble counting to 10, the whole family makes a commitment to help her achieve that goal. Mom helps her count out 10 carrot sticks, her 5 year old brother lines up matchbox cars for counting, Daddy comes home and has her count how many times Rover barks to say hello to Daddy.
#5 – Everyone Needs Down Time
Children, like adults, need their own space and their own things. There needs to be a balance between cheerfully giving your time when you would rather be alone, and, being alone. Older children need to be taught that they are of value to a younger child. They might want to shake that younger child off, but you can help them learn the rewards of giving their time and that this gift will come back to them in a closer relationship with their sibling. Assure them that it is not about you needing them to “babysit” and that you will shelter their time as well and make sure the younger sibling has other things to do.
#6 – Fairly Unfair
Children need to learn early on that they are not the center of the universe. Life is not always fair. Sometimes a sibling requires more attention. Sometimes two get punished when in fact one did start it. The
most important part is for parents to remember not to favor one child over the other and not to take sides. This serves to break down the healthy relationship with the parent AND the relationship between the siblings. Ensure children that you know that each of them have strengths and things they need to improve. In fact, one child might have a particularly challenging temperament. Encourage their sibling that if they learn to handle it properly, they will be gaining important skills for life.
#7 – Family Time
Have many family times that are sacred, or set apart from the ordinary. Whether it is a family vacation, dinner times, game night, etc., make it a time when arguing or fighting is not permitted. Remember, it is the parents that set the tone for the family.
Most people don’t like to admit it, but the natural tendency is NOT to get along, but to conflict. People, and
particularly children are self-centered. If you want your children to be best friends, you have to believe that they CAN be best friends and then make actions that will match your intentions.
Please see www.tracylamperti.com for more information about working with children and families.
If you would like 1:1 assistance, please contact Tracy Lamperti for a consultation.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
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