Amongst many other complications, 2020 brought us a long and very hot summer. But, the gentle breezes and cooler weather of fall are a nice respite from the heat. After many months of varying levels of quarantine, families are preparing to hunker down for what passes for winter in the state of Florida. Anxieties are high, and people all over are feeling stressed, none more perhaps than parents who have multiple children at home.
Being a parent is hard enough as it is, but add to that, children of multiple ages and the various issues this year has thrown our way, and its a whole new ball game. At this stage of the game, you may be desperately searching for some parenting tips. One of the most common bits of feedback we’re hearing from parents these days is how difficult it has been to foster loving relationships between their children who have spent entirely too much time together. We can’t solve the problem for you completely, but here are some parenting tips that will help you support your children as they navigate sibling relationships.
Encourage Siblings To Respect Each Others Individuality
As you know, each of your children is different and comes pre-wired with their own personalities. As parents, you can see their little personalities start to develop at a very young age and no matter what parenting tips you employ, you can’t fundamentally change the type of people your children are. Not that you would want to.
It can be difficult for a young child to understand the difference between themselves and their siblings. For instance, one child is very extraverted and thrives on connection with people while the other child is more introverted and desires time alone to feel good. Or, you may have one child who has a lot of energy and loves to run and bounce and play while the other prefers to play quietly or read books. There is no right or wrong when it comes to the personalities that your children are born with, instead, this provides you with an excellent opportunity to teach them about respecting each other's differences.
This is easier said than done, especially after months of being cooped up together. But, teaching your children to acknowledge and accept each other’s differences will lead to a much happier home. One of the many helpful parenting tips is to help your sibling children to develop code words they can use to express what they need at the moment. If your daughter deeply needs a social connection she can say “rainbow,” and her brother will understand how he can support her. Conversely, when your son is feeling overwhelmed and needs some time alone he can say “lizard,” and his sister will know now is not the right time.
Allow Children To Have Conflict With Boundaries
Our instinct is to nip all conflict in the bud. For most people, conflict doesn’t feel good and it’s easier to step in and act as judge and jury than to let it play out. However, this isn’t always the best approach. We’re often asked for parenting tips on how to deal with interpersonal conflict and the truth is, every child and every scenario is different. What we do know, is that children learn to navigate conflict from experience doing it. If mom and dad are always stepping in to referee then kids are missing out on the opportunity to build important skills.
Of course, there is an important caveat to this. If your children's conflicts are escalating to violence or name-calling its appropriate to get involved. Part of learning to navigate conflict is learning how to express ourselves in an effective way that is safe for all of the people around us. Your kids will learn from you how to communicate their hard feelings. One of our favorite conflict resolution parenting tips is to sit down with your children and help them develop a strategy for how they would like to settle their own conflicts. Get them involved with the process and they'll be more likely to implement their own rules when tensions rise.
Provide Safe Places For Siblings To Retreat
Even if we hadn’t spent most of this calendar year under the thumb of a global pandemic, your children would still have conflict. This time of high stress and extra-closeness has only drawn attention to the very natural issues already present in sibling relationships. As you already know from life experience, sometimes the best way to avoid an argument is to leave the room, give yourself some space, and take a few deep breaths.
If your children have their own rooms they should be deemed safe spaces. That way all children in the family know there is a place they can go to calm themselves down when sibling tensions begin to rise. In the case that your children share a room, consider choosing two additional spaces in the house that can act as their personal safe spaces. We all need a little bit of time to ourselves, these parenting tips will help you provide that for your children.
Depending upon how old your children are, it may be difficult for them to think about an issue from another person’s point of view. At the heart of any healthy conflict resolution strategy is empathy. By teaching our children to consider and respect the needs and perspectives of their siblings, you’ll empower them with the tools to desire relationships with healthy conflict and resolution strategies. For more parenting tips, or to stay up-to-date on our school year, contact us today.