Seeing sibling meet-and-greet pictures at the hospital after an online friend adds another to their brood of children is the sweetest. The little chubby hands holding on for dear life to their newest little sibling and the shirts that announce they are “The Best Big Brother” or “Sister” are so sweet.
When we added our second child, I was all about planning for that extraordinary moment. But then, you come home from the hospital, the seasons change, and suddenly, you have two children, not babies. And then it starts—the fighting. Oh my word, the fighting. How can two children birthed from the same person be so incredibly different? And why can’t they be born as best friends?! Here are a few ways we, as moms, can help foster sibling relationships that hopefully last a lifetime.
4 Ways to Foster Sibling Relationships
1. Set an example by how you treat them, your spouse, and your family.
These offspring of ours start paying VERY close attention to us and their environment from the moment they are born.1 Showing them by example that they shouldn’t grab, hit, etc., is the most effective way to teach good behavior.
Of course, they are just kids and will do it anyway. But it is essential to be an example for your littles even when you think they aren’t watching. Whenever one child would like a snack, have them ask their siblings if they would like one, too. Then, have them hand out the snacks to their siblings before they get theirs, ensuring manners are always used, not just with mom and dad. Little things throughout the day like that are great ways to reinforce the principles that you function under as a family.
2. Spend time together.
As kids get older and more involved in activities away from home, spending most of your time together as a family is still essential. Maybe that means one child gets to play soccer this season, and the other gets to play golf in the next. Have the siblings present at each other’s events, cheering them on and fostering strong sibling relationships.
It’s a solidarity thing, and I think it is important to know that your son or daughter can look out into the stands and see that their family is there no matter what. Limiting friend time is another way to encourage sibling relationships, especially if one of the kids is not kind to the other. My philosophy is if you cannot treat your sister nicely, why would I allow you to go to another person’s home? Treating who you love with respect, even if you don’t always get along, is important.
3. Overly encourage the kindness you see displayed in sibling relationships organically.
When my boys, who are 14 months apart (Lord help me), share and use their nice words and tones with each other, and I stumble upon it, I go out of my way to say, “Wow, boys! I love that you’re sharing! I love that you guys are best friends.” I take that opportunity to sort of speak into the situation what I want them to notice. My kids are still relatively young, so I will check back when they are 30 to let you know if any of this stuff worked!
4. Don’t get overly involved.
Lastly, I want to encourage you to let them work it out. Sometimes, that means letting them wrestle it out (safely) and letting them play together without me involved. I don’t need to hover over them anymore. They are suitable ages to know what is allowed and what is not, and I stay out of it until something is truly out of hand. Send them outside to play, to the basement, wherever you find it safe for them to be within eye and earshot, and where you do not have to be so involved. They need to learn to work disagreements out on their own. It is good for them.
Having great sibling relationships is so vital to the overall health of a family. It is comforting as a parent to see your kids grow up to be each other’s supporters, friends, and encouragers. They may never be “best friends,” but everyone should grow up feeling like their family has their back, loves them unconditionally, and will call them out when needed. Planting the seeds of this type of relationship takes work and thoughtful parenting. It doesn’t just happen. But the harvest will be so sweet if you are faithful in pursuing the end goal.