School is out. Are bickering children turning your midsummer dream into a nightmare? What can you do to encourage sibling harmony instead of rivalry?
The best place to start is by understanding that bickering is normal. Jan Ginsberg in her article, the Ups and Downs of Sibling Relationships reminds parents that, “feelings of love/hate, cooperation/competition, and protectiveness/rejection are part of the normal interaction between siblings.” (http://www.familytlc.net/sibling_preteen.html, accessed May 2009
Yes, there is a positive side to sibling rivalry. Drs. Julius and Zelda Segal, both psychologists, sum it up neatly. “Through their adversarial roles, children learn a great deal about handling human relationships-how to stand up for their own rights, how to compete without acting hostile and aggressive, how to resolve conflicts through negotiation and compromise, and how to lose gracefully.”
Families living together offer untold opportunities for learning and development. Parents need to accept that perfect children and perfect relationships do not happen instantaneously.
The most important factor in maneuvering sibling relations is for parents to have a plan. Have a plan not only for dealing with conflict (see sidebar), but also a summer game plan for activity. Everyone operates better under a schedule, of course, allowing some free time for personal exploration and interests. Parents must put forth some effort in making a suitable plan, but the rewards are well worth the effort. Different ages will, of course, necessitate accommodated plans due to attention span and physical abilities. But, an overall family plan can easily be adapted. Start with a regular bedtime and naptime (rest/quiet time for older children) schedule. Well rested children make happier children and even happier parents.
Some families will want a precisely written daily chart while others will function best under a weekly chart with appropriate goals (i.e.; 2 movies, 1 park visit, 2 swimming pool afternoons, craft day, book to be read, 1 playdate, etc.). There are oodles of website ideas (see sidebar) and formats taking much of the work out of the process; find or develop a plan. Even though it is July, it is never too late to come up with a suitable plan. Tiredness, boredom and too much unplanned free time is breeding ground for sibling unrest.
Soon enough, quiet summers without pattering feet will descend upon each household. Children will grow and leave to build households of their own. Don’t wish this summer away. Seize it for all it’s worth. All too soon, time will fade into memories and the sweetness of sharing hot lazy days with sweaty babes, scraped knees, and cherished times together will become a rare commodity.
Make a plan and handle the conflicts that naturally arise in every household, but most importantly, make a plan to build more and stronger family bonds together. Siblings are for a lifetime. Friends will come and go, but brothers and sisters remain the same.
Tips for promoting sibling harmony
- Allow siblings to express their feelings about each other. Give your children time and space to vent their frustration. When they talk – listen; acknowledge you understand his/her viewpoint. Tell them this is something they can work out.
- Know when to step in. When inevitable small arguments occur, it’s good to let your kids learn to work things out on their own. They are practicing negotiating skills for later in life. If the argument becomes a fight, then intervene
- Make opportunities for cooperation. Once a month, plan a family event in which teams your kids together so they learn to cooperate to succeed. The feeling of mutual accomplishment will bring them closer.
- Hold family meetings. Routinely get your whole family together to address anything that’s come up. You even can hold these meetings during family dinners. Encourage your kids to bring up anything they would like to discuss.
- Don’t make comparisons. It’s difficult not to compare your children, but to promote harmony, address the issue of the moment – the messy room, the backtalk, or the forgotten chores. Keep each child’s strengths in mind and look for opportunities to point them out.
- Promote the meaning of family. Periodically remind your children of the importance of family. Display family unity by remaining close to your own siblings. Remind them that friends may come and go, but family stays.
(http://busy-mommy.com/2009/03/6-tips-for-sibling-harmony.html, accessed May 2009)
Web Help for Making a Summer Plan
- Surviving Summer with Children: http://www.articlesbase.com/art-and-entertainment-articles/surviving-summer-with-the-children-159980.html
- Surviving Summer; Indoor Activities for Stir-Crazy Kids: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/48017/surviving_summer_indoor_activities.html?cat=6
- Summer Fun for Kids: http://www.kidsturncentral.com/summer/summer.htm
- 101 Things to do this summer: http://www.homeschool.com/articles/101ThingsToDoThisSummer/default.asp
- Summer Family Fun - Things to Do with Kids in the Washington, DC Area: http://dc.about.com/od/seasonalfamilyfun/tp/SummerFamilyFun.htm
- 15 Best Places to Go with Kids in the Washington DC Area: http://dc.about.com/od/childrensactivities/tp/15BestforKids.htm
- 200+ Ideas for Summertime (or Anytime) Fun! http://www.stretcher.com/stories/03/03jul21h.cfm