Sibling relationship

I want my children to like each other. My brother and I have no contact. Is this just the way siblings are or can I do something to help them be friends? My son is four and my daughter 1.

Submitted by: Becky

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One Response to Sibling relationship

  1. Harriet Heath says:

    There is no guarantee that your children will be friends as adults but you certainly can help them have fun together as children. Three ways come to mind. One is to have toys and equipment that each child can enjoy at his or her developmental level at the same time. Water play is an example. During the summer both can run through the sprinkler and laugh together. Bath time can be another time. A wagon fastened on to a tricycle lets your older child give the younger a ride. A second way to support your children’s developing relationship is to protect the older child’s creative work from the younger child’s curiosity. She simply will not understand why her brother gets so upset when she knocks down the tower he is trying to build higher. It is such fun to knock it down, she knows. It was at this stage of my children’s development that I used the play pen. The older child could build his towers, make his fancy collages in the play pen, and the younger child could see them, see what he was doing but not destroy them. The third way is to help the older child learn how to relate to the younger one. If he was building tracks to race his car down, could he build tracks for her? How can you play with the ball so she can play? Maybe the most important lesson is to help the older child know how the younger not yet talking child is feeling about whatever they are doing. Tell him to “Watch her face. It will tell you if she is O.K. and having fun.”

    As a culture we have so focused on sibling rivalry that we have neglected the fact children need help to learn how to have fun together. It seems to be easier when the older child is a girl. She can always use a younger sibling to have a tea party with when you need two characters or to play school. But either sex can learn how to play with the younger sibling. They have to be taught.

    I learned this lesson when a group of us were presenting a parenting program in an elementary school. The fifth graders were studying parenting. They were learning what parents have to do to support their developing infants. One of the activities they covered was how parents play with their children and how those play patterns have to be adapted to the age of the child. The parents of the fifth grade were attending an informal parent/infant play time. Several months into the program the parents started talking about how their fifth grade children were playing with their younger siblings. They described the fifth graders rolling the ball instead of throwing it or playing a simplified version of hide-and-seek. The parents were marveling how their older children were changing. They were actually interacting with their younger siblings. Some parents even described how the tone in their homes had become gentler. There was much less bickering. We who were running the program began to realize that the fifth graders were taking what they had learned in the parenting course and applying it at home. It was as if they had had to learn how to play with their younger siblings. Harriet Heath