Brotherly love isn’t exactly what you’d call what’s going on between Ben and Casey Affleck these days. Younger brother Casey won a Golden Globe and failed to thank his big bro in his acceptance speech. And Ben’s not letting it go, airing Casey’s secrets on late night TV. The feud seems to be in good fun, but we parents know all too well, sibling rivalry can be the source of a lot of frustration for the whole family.
Sibling rivalry can start even before the second child is born. Even during pregnancy, parents start discussing and planning for the baby’s arrival. The older child, who is used to being the only apple of the parents’ eye, suddenly finds him or herself having to share time and attention. It’s only natural that conflicts arise, but there are some ways parents can weather sibling storms:
Don’t Play Favorites
Of course you love both of your children, and parents should make that crystal clear to their kids. Each kid is unique, and parents shouldn’t compare them to each other. Saying things like, “Why can’t you clean your room like Johnny?” only intensifies bad feelings between siblings. Each of your children is special in his or her own way and that should be celebrated instead of used against the other child.
Change Your Routine
If you find you’re having the same problems over and over, it may be time for a change. Perhaps the kids are always going to battle right before dinner or bedtime. Being hungry or tired can add extra stress on kids (and parents!) and can intensify sibling rivalry. If you’re noticing a pattern, try giving them an additional healthy snack or moving bedtime up by a half-hour.
Set Aside One-on-One Time
Make it a priority to get some uninterrupted alone time with each of your kids. You don’t have to block out a full afternoon (although that’s a good idea every once in awhile); even a few minutes a day with your child can mean the world to him or her. Don’t stress over doing anything out of the ordinary – time set aside for talking or playing will help reinforce to each child that they are loved for who they are.
Keep The Future In Mind
As parents, we walk a fine line with siblings of when to intervene and when to let the kiddos duke it out for themselves. When you can, try to let the kids work out issues on their own; it’s a valuable skill that will serve them well as they grow up. However, oftentimes, it’s an unfair fight because of the age gap. If the battle is getting physical or if the yelling is reaching a decibel that’s painful to everyone in the house, it may be time to step in. Parents can be good role models and help resolve issues in a way that’s calm and fair to everyone.
Don’t be alarmed if your kids go from best friends to worst enemies at the drop of a hat. That is perfectly natural. It may not seem like it now, but all of those sibling battles will be in the rearview mirror one day. Well, until one of the kids wins a Golden Globe…