May 4, 2022 — By Wendy Sachs
As the school year closes and schedules change for the summer, there can be a ramp up of sibling tension in the home. If you find that your kiddos are often competing, fighting and having some issues playing together, know that you are not alone. ALL kids will quarrel with their siblings. It is actually an important moment of growth.
When kids go thru conflict with siblings, they are learning how to disagree, set boundaries and communicate in tough situations. We can talk thru how to do these things with kids, but they need a chance to practice those skills and conflict with siblings gives them a safe space to work it out.
Of course you don’t want to spend your entire summer being a referee or listening to the back and forth. Here are some tips on how to manage sibling conflict.
Identify the reasons for the conflict. Sometimes kids are fighting because they are bored, hungry, tired or seeking attention. Sometimes they quarrel because they are jealous or resentful or seeking more space. Sometimes it really is about an issue before them. Keeping track of the triggers of the issues will help you know how much to get involved and when to suggest alone time and a snack vs. when to work thru steps to resolve an issue.
Give kids space to work things out when you can.If no one is in physical danger, try to let them navigate things by themselves. Remember that this is a great way for them to practice those social skills.
Do what you can to foster a congenial environment. Try not to compare kids. Save space when possible to have one on one time with each child on a regular basis. Model problem solving behavior whenever you can in front of the kids. It’s normal to be annoyed or even angry with people from time to time. Let your kiddos know that it’s natural and let them see you take a breath and work it out.
As often as you can, make sure you are a guide in the resolution instead of laying down the law. If you do need to step in, use questions to coach kids thru the situation instead of solving it for them. Ask kids to pretend to be the other person and act out the other side of the conflict. Have them take a moment to calm down separately then revisit the issue. Let them try a solution that you are sure won’t work then ask them to assess how things are going and pivot to another solution when necessary. The more you can make the conflicts learning opportunities the better!
Keep calm! We know that this is easy to say and not at all easy to do. Take a minute yourself to walk into another room and breathe deep. Turn on music in the car. Do what you can to deescalate the emotions in the room. Kids will take their cues from you. No one is a good problem solver when they are in a high emotional state. Remember that siblings have been fighting since the dawn of time. This too shall pass.