When I found out I was pregnant with our second child I wondered what life would be like with two children. Will it be hard to care for them at the same time? Will I know what I’m doing this second time around!? I also worried about how I could love two children with all my heart. Was my heart big enough to love both of them?
Well it turns out it is! Along the way my heart grew twice the size and I discovered just how wonderful it is to have siblings. On top of that I learned a few things about encouraging a loving sibling relationship between our son and daughter.
So How Do You Create Lasting Sibling Bonds?
Family is big for us. We love spending time with each other and we desire a strong connection between all of us. To do this we strive to create a home atmosphere that is warm, filled with grace and a place where we are completely loved and accepted. Our hope is when we create this type of atmosphere we naturally encourage a warm sibling bond.
Now I’m not saying our children never fight or argue. That’s totally unrealistic! But at the end of the day we strive to help our children create a lasting bond.
So here are it is:
5 secrets to encouraging a loving sibling relationship
ONE: Encourage Love & Kindness – This sounds simple and it really is! Find ways to encourage connection and love between siblings. Involve them in the small things. For example, when we tuck our toddler in at night our preschooler is part of the routine. She loves to pray for him, say goodnight and pat his back for a minute. These simple routine adjustments help your children build a lasting bond.
Yes it’s easier to do it yourself sometimes, but encourage your children to help each other. If the youngest needs help zipping his coat or opening the toy box, promote the relationship be asking the oldest sibling to help. Find ways they can do things together, which leads us to our next tip.
TWO: Find Activities They Can Do Together – Sometimes with age differences it is difficult to find play activities that both children want to do. So here are 20+ activities older and younger siblings can play together! It doesn’t matter if there is an age difference or sex difference. These brother and sister play ideas are perfect for creating a strong sibling relationship. Here is another list of 10 activities for a toddler and baby to do together. Find what works for your children.
THREE: Use Your Judgment – Sometimes when we push things on our children they don’t like it! In turn, they may do the opposite. Be aware of your child’s feelings and use discernment. Have they had enough of each other? Sometimes a little alone time is all they need to stop fighting. You can set up opportunities for them to play together, but if they really aren’t feeling it, that is okay to. There are other indirect things you can do instead (keep reading!).
FOUR: Make Your Marriage a Priority – Huh? I thought we were talking about sibling relationships? Interestingly enough, researchers have found that a positive marital relationship was a strong predictor when it came to an older siblings’ ability to regulate feelings of jealousy (Volling, McElwain, Miller, 2002). The researchers believed this occurred because the parents possibly served as effective models of problem solving or their positive marriage fostered a pleasant family environment. Either way, take time to love your spouse.
FIVE: Pray For Their Relationship – I can’t stress this enough. There is only so much we can do as parents and then we have to trust and believe that God will take care of it. Certainly there will be times when siblings fight or disappoint one another. But we can pray they will be loving friends and learn to show compassion to one another. Our 5 specific prayers for true friendship can be used with siblings as well!
BONUS Tip Below: Are you finding a lot of sibling jealousy? Try this!
Individual Date Time
Many parents worry that with a new sibling, the oldest child starts to feel left out or have a difficult time sharing attention with the baby. One way to counteract this is to set up individual dates with each child. Be intentional about spending quality parent-child time. This can help reduce sibling rivalry and jealously.
I once heard someone say if their child was born on October 10th they would set aside the 10th of every month for a one-on-one date with the child. I love this idea! It doesn’t have to be a huge expensive date, but make sure you are setting aside some one-on-one time. Everyone loves special mommy or daddy time.
So how do you encourage your kids to have a warm sibling relationship? Have you found something to helps create a lasting bond? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Volling, B.L., McElwain, N.L., & Miller, A.L. (2002). Emotion regulation in context: The jealousy complex between young siblings and its relations with child and family characteristics. Child Development, 73, 581-600.