Sibling rivalry is common, but if your children refuse to communicate, play together or even look at each other, it’s time to step in and help them form a better bond. If you incorporate bonding activities into their daily routine, they can develop a sibling relationship that will prove to be a valuable lifelong friendship.
Although your daughter may dread going to her brother’s football games, encouraging support for each other’s interests at a young age will help foster an appreciation for their differences. Make attendance at each other’s sporting events and extracurricular activities a family affair and a regular occurrence. Urge your children to offer words of support and encouragement to each other before big events.
Family traditions can lead to fond memories of childhood. Help your children make memories together by prompting them to create traditions or rituals your family will continue. For example, prompt siblings to brainstorm activities they enjoy and encourage them to agree on how a tradition involving those activities will be upheld. Psychologist Mark Sharp notes that family traditions and rituals create a sense of bonding for siblings. “That helps create a shared identity, which helps them feel closer," he says.
A disagreement or two will likely ensue when your children play together, but don’t let that stop your efforts to keep them interacting. If a board game spurs an argument, change the game or distract them by launching a water balloon challenge in the backyard. Varying the activities will keep your children engaged and teach them to be flexible with each other during work and play.
Siblings have opportunities to bond even when work is involved. Instead of having them perform their weekly chores in isolation, prompt your children to team up when cleaning the house. Have them wash the car or rake leaves in the yard together. Give them a goal and a deadline, and they will be forced to work together to accomplish the task. If one prefers to dry, ask the other wash and then have them swap the following week. Co-chores help your children learn how to create a plan together and find a way to reach that goal together, forming a bond of teamwork.
Siblings may not always be willing to communicate with each other, but if you make daily sharing sessions part of normal activities, communication will occur naturally. Encourage them to communicate and bond by presenting a “talking wand” or object that is reserved for the person speaking. Each child gets a chance to share something about his or her day, but only the person holding the wand can speak. Take turns passing the wand so that your children can express themselves without fear of interruption. Even when an argument occurs, know that your children are still communicating.
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