Whether sisters are 3 and 5 or 83 and 85, feuds can erupt between them. Dr. Jeanne Safer, psychotherapist and author of "Cain’s Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage," notes that the sisterly feuds of adults have their roots in childhood rivalry. Small grievances that start in childhood grow over the years. Some of the longest relationships women have are with their sisters. A lifetime is too long to put energy into a feuding relationship. There are ways to break the cycle of rivalry and put an end to feuding sisters.
For ParentsStep 1
Deflect the argument back to your children. Encourage the sisters to work toward a solution together.
Stay calm when sisters fight, but don’t get involved. Your involvement as a parent may make it seem to the sisters that you are taking sides. Intervene if one child is in danger of getting hurt.
Separate the sisters if they threaten to hurt each other. Send each girl to a time-out area until they are both completely calm.
Refrain from blaming either sister. Both girls played a part in the argument.
Set rules about behavior. For example, one sister can like pink while the other likes purple, but it’s not allowable for one to color her sister’s pink wall purple.
Stop measuring. Don’t use words like “fair” or “equal.” Instead, let the children know that everyone in the family gets what she needs. For example if a child is sick, she may need special food, care or attention.
For SistersStep 1
Think about your sister. Look at the person she is outside of your family. Consider how other people see her and how it might be the same or different from your view.
Look at the ups and downs of your relationship with your sister throughout your life. Try to see the fights from her point of view. For example, you might remember the screaming fight you had the day before you left for college. When you look at it from her point of view, you may see a younger sister who didn’t know how to say she would miss her big sis.
Reach out to your sister. This could be via a card, email or a phone call. If the first conversation is strained, don’t ignore it. Admit that you are uncomfortable and that you hope to work with your sister to make things better.
Share what you admire about your sister. Don’t try to butter her up, but be sincere and honest.
Create a “safe word” to stop future arguments. No one agrees about everything all the time. To stop you and your sister from saying things you might regret, create a word that you both agree will stop an argument in its tracks. When either of you utters the word, you both just walk away to calm down.
- Wall Street Journal: Sibling Rivalry Grows Up
- KidsHealth: About Sibling Rivalry
- Pediatrics: Association of Sibling Aggression with Child and Adolescent Mental Health
- Cain’s Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage; Jeanne Safer
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