How To Cope With Sibling Rivalry In Your Home
When the time comes to start your own family you will most likely have the goals and vision that all of your children will be great friends and get along brilliantly. That is very often the case but sibling rivalry and conflict is also a very real issue for many families and it is important to recognise that it is not a negative reflection of your parenting skills or family home life. It is extremely common.
As one of five children, I can absolutely vouch for the fact that, in most cases, sibling conflict is usually temporary. Despite coming from the same family and living in the same home siblings can really adopt different attitudes, likes and dislikes. This can often lead to heads bumping and falling out with each other for a certain period of time.
The reality is that all children are different. Many parents try to encourage the same morals and hobbies for all of their children. It is natural to want your family unit to work as a team. If you are a family of music-players then it will probably be a given that you encourage each child to take up learning how to play an instrument.
If you are a family of sports fans then sports teams will more than likely be suggested. However, despite your best efforts, this may not work out as you would like. Your child may detest sports and choose to immerse themselves in a hobby that no other family member has an interest in. Suddenly the family dynamic shifts a little and it affects every family member on one level or another. The family “harmony” is altered but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Remembering that every child is an individual is really important. It may be the very thing that prevents you from comparing one child with the other. If one child is known for their excellent school reports then another child may feel as though they live in that person’s shadow. As parents, we may, by total mistake, set this as the standard. We may use the other child as a positive example with completely good intentions but it may actually instil a resentment within the other child towards that high achieving sibling. That is not to say parents are to blame, but it is one thing we can be consciously aware of.
Age gaps can often be the cause of sibling conflict and rivalry. As each child leaves one stage and enters another they may suddenly feel disconnected from their younger or older siblings. It is almost inevitable. Their experience of day to day life is very different from that of their siblings. They may feel misunderstood and as though they cannot relate to anyone in their home. This can often breathe resentment and some form of rebellious activity.
It is very easy to trivialise the worries, concerns and triumphs of a younger sibling or child because as an older person you feel completely removed and disconnected from that phase of your life. But taking a step back and remembering that life is so relative is really important. We can help older siblings to understand this by explaining it in a compassionate way. The way a younger child sees the world is very different to that of an older sibling. They may not have financial worries, exams or relationship issues but their emotions are always valid and deserving of a listening ear.
As difficult as it is to accept we cannot force our children to get along well. Quite often our efforts only accentuate the issue. More often than not saying less is more and these things work out all by themselves. It may be something really simple that unites them once again and as young adults, they may connect on a really meaningful level.
Letting your children express their individuality and having their own opinions and preferences is really important but at the same time, the common thread in the family should always be respect and support. We cannot force our children to be best friends but if we insist on respect and an open-door-policy our children will grow to see each other as pillars of support even if they are not the very best of pals at every stage of their lives.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.