Sibling relationships play a crucial role in how children learn to interact, resolve conflict and develop emotions such as empathy. Though these social skills take time to mature, it’s important to help guide your little ones through any sibling issues and to help them establish positive habits early on. Here are some helpful tips for nurturing healthy sibling relationships.

Avoid comparisons

Comparing your children is a sure way to build resentment and rivalry between siblings. Avoid negative terms and questions like, ‘Why can’t you listen like you sister?’ or ‘Your brother doesn’t talk back like that,’ as comparing different behaviours can make the other child feel hurt, insecure or resentful. Instead, observe each situation from a neutral and constructive position by focusing on the strength or weakness of each child individually, without referring to the other sibling.

Encourage cooperative play

Find activities that both or all children enjoy. Differences in age and interests can make this problematic but experiment with a variety of games and choose ones that require teamwork or shared skills. Fort-building or doing crafts can also be a great way to get your little ones bonding and enjoying each other’s company.

Respect and reinforce boundaries

While having a sibling can mean always having a playdate, a companion and a confidant, it can also mean having someone that is around all day every day. Respect each child’s feelings and needs with private one-on-one conversations. Explain the concept of boundaries and reinforce them when it’s time for some privacy or independent play.

Identify the cause of the conflict

If your children argue regularly, try and figure out what’s behind these disagreements. Are your kids fighting for your time and attention? Do they argue when they are bored? Once you recognise these patterns, you can put measures into place to help prevent conflict. For instance, you could try spending one-on-one time with each child or have rainy-day games prepared for when the bane of boredom strikes.

Encourage good listening skills

When an argument arises and you need to intervene, it’s important to try and guide your children through how to resolve the conflict on their own. Give each child time to discuss how they’re feeling and be sure to encourage the other to listen by preventing interruptions. With some prompting and perseverance, these listening skills will eventually help your little ones learn how to compromise, problem-solve and respect each other’s feelings.

Respect and appreciate differences

Differences in age, skills and interests can make it challenging for your little ones to get along. But, one of the best parts about having multiple children is being able to watch them get involved and excel in different areas. Make a point of celebrating each child by praising their unique interests, strengths and accomplishments equally. Modelling this as their parent will also encourage your children to respect each other’s differences, rather than fight over them.

Sibling arguments are an inevitable part of growing up. However, they also present the opportunity to guide your children through conflict resolution and start establishing positive habits for the future. With some patience, practice and perseverance, you can help foster an invaluable sibling bond that will serve them throughout their childhood and later in life.