8 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings — their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When I learned that we would be having a second baby who would be only 22-23 months younger than my son, I was of course ecstatic but definitely nervous. Although I have a brother, he is six years younger than me, so I had no idea how having a sister so close in age would affect my son’s life. I also had no idea what it felt like to be a little sister, so I wanted to do everything I could to help my little ones have the best relationship possible.

If you want to know more about how my fears of having a second child measured up to our real life experience, check out 11 Truths I want to Share With Mamas Expecting Their Second Child.

8 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving RelationshipWe’re now 14 months into having two children, and although there have been various stages in my children’s relationship with each other due to age and development, I have definitely found some key guidelines that help my babies have what I think is a wonderful relationship. Here they are:

1. Model how you hope your children will treat each other.
If you want your children to speak to each other in an affectionate way, the only way they will naturally do it is by following your example. I love to hear my three year old using my phrases and tone of voice in private moments with his sister. Hearing him say things in a kind voice like “It’s okay, little one” or “Don’t worry, baby. I can help you” just melts my heart. When I feel like snapping in a moment of frustration, I always think about how the words and tone I am about to use would sound coming out of one of my kids’ mouths being directed toward the other.

2. Give them space to play together on their own with as little interference from you as possible.
It can be challenging to let little ones play together on their own when you are worried about the littler one getting hurt, but it is amazing to see how even very young children can work through problems and find ways to get along with enough time and space.

3. Spend dedicated one on one time with each child.
I know how crazy life can be with two small children, but I really believe it is the quality of the time – and not the quantity of time – that matters when it comes to one on one time. Whether it’s snuggling and reading books together in the early morning hours while your other child sleeps, or singing songs and playing while changing a diaper, it’s the little moments that count the most. I do at least one real mama and son date a month too. We really look forward to pajama story time at the library and frozen yogurt dates in the summer. When your children feel like they don’t have to compete with their sibling for your attention all the time, they are less likely to transfer negative feelings to their sibling.

4.Let each child have space that is all his or her own.
I don’t force our kids to share everything with each other. My son uses his bedroom as his safe space where he knows he can set up Lego buildings and intricate car parades all over the floor without his sister knocking them down. When he gets to play on his own in his safe space, I find that he is much more likely to share with his sister outside of that space and initiate playing with her.

5. Manage your expectations.
When one of your children is still a baby, it is amazing how your perspective shifts and you start to think of your first child as so much older and more capable than he actually is. Be careful not to have unrealistic expectations for your older child. If she is at the age when sharing is a brand new concept, you can’t expect her to intrinsically want to suddenly share everything with a baby.

6. Put out toys that both children can use equally.
It comes in very handy to have boxes of toys and activities that one child will not always dominate. For example, I leave out boxes of musical instruments (drums, cymbals, shakers, rhythm sticks, etc.), sensory tables filled with wooden blocks, and bags of books that would be eye-catching to both kids. These kinds of toys lend themselves to more natural cooperation and easy fun for children of different ages.

7. Don’t put pressure on your older child.
I think it’s a lot to ask of a young child to be a role model. I personally don’t ask my three year old to be a role model for his sister, but I do like to point out to him whenever he does something that makes my daughter feel happy or when she copies his actions. Children have the propensity and inclination to be kind and responsible when they are not forced. Encouragement and awareness go a long way.

8. Help your children create roles for each other.
When I notice that something my daughter is doing is starting to bother my son, I often step in to create a kind of storyline for what is happening. For instance, my son used to have a really hard time when my daughter would want to touch a little vehicle that he likes to ride, but once I suggested she is a mechanic, he began to naturally incorporate her into his vehicle games. Now, if she approaches his ride on car, he finds all different roles for her, and whether she is a mechanic, gas attendant, or car washer, I can rest easy knowing that what was once a point of contention is now an opportunity for fun for both of them.

How do you encourage your children’s relationship with each other?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?

This post is linked up at the Honest Voices linkup, Simply Natural Saturday, and the Tender Moments with Toddlers and Preschoolers linkup.

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