Siblings often fight with each other, or compete with each other. Parents and carers can help siblings learn about relationships, conflict management, and their own emotional regulation to reduce the intensity and frequency of sibling conflicts.
1. Encourage appropriate emotional expression. Most siblings have to live with each other every day and rarely get a break. It’s like being on a permanent playdate and not being able to go home when you’ve had enough. So siblings are going to experience mixed feelings about each other – sometimes they will be best mates, other times they will not be able to stand the sight of each other. Talk with them about feelings, situations that may arise, and help with some problem solving at times when your children are calm and not immediately involved in conflict with each other. Let children know that all feelings are ok, but sometimes our actions are not, so you will help them to learn how to express their feelings in safe and respectful ways.
2. Proactive action. Be aware of when kids are tired, hungry, or in situations that often lead to fights. Intervene in situations before they deteriorate, and separate the children if it is helpful. Try and provide the children with attention before a fight breaks out. For example, when you are all in the car together and the kids start annoying each other, encourage them to play a game like “I spy” or turn on the radio and all sing along. This can help diffuse the situation and distract the kids, and give you something to focus your attention on, e.g. “We sound great singing together!”
3. Encourage teamwork. Help siblings appreciate each other by working together. You can ask your children to complete a set of chores together, or set them up a fun challenge. Kids love to team up against their parents so, keeping in mind that we act safely and respectfully toward each other, play games with your children where they are a team set against you. Working together in fun ways fosters feelings of appreciation and friendship.