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4 min read

When Sibling Rivalry Gets Out of Hand: Effective Exercises for Sibling Bonding

a child in therapy

Sibling relationships can be messy. Of course, parents would love for their children to love and support each other, but even in the best of circumstances, siblings are going to fight at some point. The good news is that even contentious relationships between siblings can be shifted in a more positive direction. In this article, we'll share some effective exercises for siblings to bond, as well as offer some general insight on sibling rivalry.

What is Normal Sibling Conflict?

Sibling rivalry or conflict is normal. While they can often have so much fun together, you may find that there are times when you feel like your children are arch enemies. However, even when older siblings fight with their younger siblings, they can still be close.

Occasional periods of jealousy, anger, and other challenges are common, and typically nothing to worry about. But that's not to say that it isn't important to foster healthy sibling bonding.

What Every Parent Should Keep in Mind with Sibling Relationships

While conflict can arise between an older child and a younger child, research shows that sibling bonding can be important for social interactions throughout life. While a parent's attention is often required for teaching children the ground rules for things like behaving in public on a family outing, and other social niceties, often an older sibling is the model for the younger sibling when it comes to more informal interactions. This can include how to act around other kids, at home or at school.

Sibling interactions can also be essential for building relationship skills, learning emotional regulation, and setting positive examples for one another. For example, if a big brother goes to college, it is more likely that the younger siblings will follow suit.

The bottom line is that sibling relationships can be an important building block in the lives of your children at different ages. Therefore, fostering healthy and strong bonds between your children can be important to ensuring positive contact and a strong family system.

Prioritize Quality One-On-One Time

To promote healthy sibling bonding from the start, prioritizing spending quality time with one child at a time. Avoid showing favoritism to one sibling over another. Make sure that you take turns doing something special with each child, something that they enjoy. This can help manage older kids feelings of jealousy over a little brother or sister, and offer all your kids a feeling of security.

Sibling Bonding Activities

Coming up with a list of favorite activities can be a way to foster healthy relationships between your children. Having fun as a group can encourage your kids to see each other as allies and teammates rather than antagonists. Here are some different types of family game activities that allow your kids spend time with each other in a fun environment.

Sibling Activities with No Special Set Up Required

Kids jump and play as a matter of course, so to find creative activities that don't require much set up doesn't have to be too difficult. Some games for siblings can include "the floor is lava" in which they have to stay off of the floor by moving from different pieces of furniture. If you worry about the state of your house, you can always play this outside as well.

Hide and seek is another classic, when all the kids (and mom and dad) take turns hiding, or you can play the reverse called "sardines," in which everyone hides while one kid seeks. A kids dance party can also be a fun activity to let your kids have fun and let loose together.

Outdoor Games

Water play can be fun during the right time of year. Have an all-out water fight using the hose, water balloons, or plastic cups of water. For a little extra sibling bonding, have a parents vs kids water fight. This will let your kids work together on strategy and can help them learn to work together. Other water-based activities can be "painting" with water on a board fence, on pavement, or on the siding of your home, and setting up a water "obstacle course" with sprinklers, slip 'n slides, and blow-up pools.

Scavenger Hunt Around the House

A scavenger hunt or treasure hunt is a way to keep the kids busy as well as promote togetherness. Kids love using clues to find hidden objects, especially if there is a reward at the end. Even if there is a large age difference, an older brother or sister can help the younger kids play.

Using Books to Foster Sibling Relationships

Reading is one of those sibling activities that kids love and that can bring them together. If they are very young, you can read to them while you all sit on a bed or couch together. As they age, the older sibling can take turns doing the reading, or allow the younger kids to try. Look for classic kids books that are timeless fun for all ages, and allow your kids to take turns making requests.

Create Family Rituals

Creating moments of fun around the house with your kids can lead to less sibling conflict over time. Eating dinner together when you can and taking turns sharing about your day, or playing with question cards as you eat can be a way to find out what is going on in your kids' lives. Family hikes can also be fun, and is another way that siblings can spend quality time together. Some other fun rituals can include:

  • Family movie night
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Sunday pancakes
  • Board game night
  • Family karaoke or dance night

Conflict That Serves a Function

Parenting interventions can make all the difference when it comes to conflict between siblings. You can't get them to stop fighting altogether but rather than yell, "stop fighting!" take the time to talk things through. Sharing problem-solving skills and making these fights teachable moments can help kids model better conflict resolution in their sibling relationships and other relationships too.

Fostering Strong Sibling Relationships in Austin, TX

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your kids don't get along. Siblings don't always communicate well, and if you find that your child is having a rough time because of your other child, or that sibling activities aren't bringing them together, therapy can help.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level child and family psychotherapists in Austin offers both online and in-person appointments, so you can find the time to bring your kids together.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Austin therapist to offer tools and help your children get along and bring peace around the house.

Book a Therapy Session in Austin Today

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