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Fostering Healthy Sibling Relationships

October 18, 2019 | by tyller moline

My sister and I are closer than we’ve ever been, and our relationship continues to grow to this day. Yet, we have certainly had a fair amount of disagreements and shed tears along the way. I am going to share some tips on how healthy sibling relationships can be fostered, in hopes that I can help siblings become not just family, but friends.

The parents’ role is key when it comes to fostering healthy sibling relationships, and so the following tips center around both parents and siblings.

1.     Don’t Compare Your Kids

It is important to steer clear from saying one kid is better at something than another, or things that imply he or she should be more like their sibling. This creates insecurities and doubt that can lead to Becky being mad at Katie for being everything she is not. However, it is important to celebrate their unique, quirky traits. This signals to your children that each one of them is different, and those differences are each valuable.

2.     Encourage Teamwork

Having your kids work together as a team helps build communication skills and creates a sense of unity. You can have your kids work on an art project together, build something together, do chores together, or do anything that requires teamwork.

3.     Remain in the Sibling Role

As the eldest child, it was very easy for me to crossover into bossy mode. A lot of this came from babysitting and being left in charge while my parents were out. While they were gone, I had to put my big girl pants (scratch that) mom pants on. Wait, what? Mom pants. Before I knew it, I was consistently acting like more of a mom to my sister than I was a sister. It was putting unnecessary strain on our relationship, and I realized I needed to step out of the mom role and back into the sister role. So, I recommend, especially to the eldest children: take the time to remind yourself to remain in the sibling role.  

4.     Spend Time Together as a Family

Having quality, fun, family interactions helps relieve stress and creates memories that siblings can look back on. In other words, these family outings give children something to bond over.

5.     Communicate Effectively

Ringing true for all relationships, effective communication is vital. The following is specific, however, to communicating effectively with siblings. Yet, it may take a decent amount of time before you and your sibling have mastered these skills.

  • Actively listening to your sibling is of great significance. It is so easy to just let what he or she says become background noise, but how can you properly respond if you don’t listen? Plus, it is disrespectful to not listen to what your sibling has to say, no matter how silly it may seem! For example, my relationship with my sister grew a lot once I started listening more closely to how her day at school went.
  • Pay attention to your sibling’s nonverbal cues, because this can help you get a read on a situation.

o  Is he/she making eye contact?

o  What is his/her facial expression?

o  Is he/she making any gestures?

o  What is his/her posture?

o  What is the distance between the two of you?

  • While you are conversing with your sibling, ask questions to show that you are interested in hearing what they have to say, or hearing their viewpoint.
  • Try to be as clear and to the point as possible when communicating with your sibling, because it is very frustrating when he or she is consistently beating around the bush. It oftentimes causes confusion and feels like wasted time and energy.
  • Be empathetic and really try relating to what your sibling is feeling, and or what they are going through.

6.     Spend Equal Amounts of Time Bonding/Time Apart

One of the biggest lessons I learned is that bonding time, or time spent hanging out with my sibling, is equally as important as time spent apart from her. You see, my sister and I are best friends and I sometimes was upset when she didn’t want to do something with me. Yet, I realized that rather than be upset about it, it was healthier to take the time to focus on self-care, chores, etc. It also made our relationship ten times stronger because we were growing as individuals, and it made the time we spent together that much more precious. 

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