It is probably every parent's dream to have their children get along. Sometimes that dream seems unattainable, especially as you watch your children fight constantly, punch each other's buttons and seemingly look for opportunities to go out of their way to be mean.
According to research, these sibling relationships, especially in early teen years, can impact their later teen and adult lives. "The findings showed that siblings with positive relationships exhibited fewer risky behaviors, whereas siblings with negative relationships engaged in more risky behaviors."
Additionally, "Older siblings who had positive relationships with their younger siblings had the fewest depressive symptoms and engaged in the lowest levels of risky behaviors. Younger siblings who had a negative relationship with an older, opposite-sex sibling had increased sexual risk behaviors," the research found.
Since these sibling relationships are a crucial part of development and growth, what can parents do to help cultivate positive sibling relationships?
Encourage spending time together
Parents should encourage siblings to spend time together. Siblings can work together on chores or projects, help each other with homework or even spend time together in social settings. Siblings who are close in age may have similar social circles and could go on group dates together or have fun game and movie nights with friends. Spending time together can foster healthy, positive sibling relationships. Having friends around can ease siblings into a more positive relationship with one another since teens tend to act better toward their siblings when others are present.
Teach them to take care of each other
Often, siblings attend the same school. Brothers and sisters should be the biggest protectors of and allies to each other. If one sibling is in a dangerous situation or getting bullied, an older sibling is the perfect person to intervene. Even if they don't always get along, there is still family love present that prevails when needed. Help your kids see situations where they need to take care of each other at school, home, church or other places they may visit.
Help them see the importance of being a good example to each other
Most families have rules, values or standards that each member is expected to uphold. Often, the oldest children have the most pressure on them to uphold the standards to be an example to younger siblings. However, EVERY child should learn to be an example. Sometimes, seeing a younger sibling make good choices can influence older siblings and vice versa. There's also solidarity that stems from setting examples for each other to follow. As they learn to make good choices together, this can strengthen their bond as siblings.
Create vacations or other fun activities for spending time together in positive ways
Perhaps a lot of family contention brews during times of stagnation. When everyone is at home with nothing going on, annoyances and boredom grow ripe and fighting flares. It's easier to get along when you're having fun. If there are more fun moments than boring moments, siblings can learn more easily how to get along and then bring that into their daily lives.
Just like any relationship, siblings have to work to get along and have a healthy, positive relationship. Because living in close quarters can complicate matters, parents need to be present to help cultivate these important and fragile relationships. Family dynamics can have a huge impact on siblings. Helping children build close sibling bonds can make a positive impact on their futures.