As parents, we are regularly faced with the task of helping each of our unique children accept and appreciate the differences in their siblings. So how can you help your children value the unique qualities of their siblings and build strong relationships among them?
According to Dana Brumm, Curriculum Specialist of Ebenezer Child Care Centers with locations on Milwaukee’s Southside and in Downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa, “It can be a challenge to build sibling relationships when children have very different natures or a large age gap. Friends can come and go, but family is forever! So as parents, we need to help develop strong sibling connections right from the start.”
Here are some tips to teach your children to love one another and build solid relationships with their siblings.
Set the Tone for Closeness
Brumm recommends that, when you bring a new baby home from the hospital, you encourage all siblings to offer cuddles and a little assistance with some basic baby care tasks, under your supervision.
“Babies are tougher than we think, and those clumsy hugs and kisses from brothers and sisters are creating a bond and a significant sense of belonging to one another.”
Focus on Strengths
Call attention to unique qualities in each child, especially when those qualities represent a contrast to the strengths of a sibling.
Brumm says, “Point out the positives in front of other family members whenever you can. You might say, ‘Emily, you always seem to know when someone needs help,’ or ‘Sam, it’s so great to see how much energy you have.’”
Consider Your Example
Model the behavior you expect from your children.
“Our children are watching how we handle the stress of living with people who may not think like us,” says Brumm, “or do things the same way we do.”
This fact gives an opportunity to model appreciation for how our differences complement one another and make our relationship stronger. Inevitably, conflicts will arise with siblings that they need to manage. By modeling conflict management techniques, the quality of their sibling relationships will improve.
Support Siblings In Nurturing Each Other
Brumm recommends that, when one child gets hurt, make it a practice for everyone in the family to stop playing and tend to the child who is hurt. Hold back a moment to see if siblings step in to nurture each other.
“In early care, we encourage children to be the medical assistant and tend to the hurt child. Send one of your children for the ice pack or Band-Aids, and make sure all the children take part in this, including any child who was involved in the other getting hurt. This will allow them to feel like a helper rather than a hurter toward their siblings.”
Create Special Sibling Time
Brumm recommends that you set aside sibling special time, a block of time each week when the siblings can play without interruption or instruction. It is a great way to ensure that your children have the time and space they need to build a strong bond.
Finally, the most important factor in helping your children get along is to build a strong relationship with each of your children. When each child knows that no matter what his sibling gets, there is more than enough for him, a strong sibling bond has a chance to bloom.
Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart. The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere; individualized, nurturing care; and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.
Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development: cognitive, physical, emotional, and social. In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.
The agency has locations in on Milwaukee’s Southside and in Downtown Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and West Allis/Wauwatosa. The agency’s main office is located at 1496 South 29th Street, Milwaukee. For more information, please call 414-643-5070.