As the birth of our second child seemed to be approaching faster than I was ready for, I found myself flooded with worry and fear about my children’s relationship. Would my daughter and son love each other? Would they have a strong relationship? How on earth would I help develop that in them? What is my role in shaping their friendship?
What we learn from interacting with our siblings shapes the kind of person we become. We learn about sharing, love, kindness, difficult times, disagreements and everything in between. These two will learn more from each other and their friendship than I could ever teach them. I believe how we as parents encourage their bond should be one of our highest priorities.
I had done all I could in preparing my toddler for the new baby, but I was unsure how to develop and foster love for their sibling relationship. We’re not very far into this endeavor, but I’ve learned a few really important things I’d like to pass on about nurturing the sibling relationship.
Photo credits to the always talented, Laura Vanderzee.
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Ways to Encourage and Nurture the Sibling Relationship
- Praise positive interaction – we probably sound like crazy people in this house. When The Girl Foster does something loving for her brother, we give her a ridiculous amount of praise. “You are such a helpful big sister!” “Thank you for being kind to your brother!” “You really showed us your loving heart by doing that!” We say as much as we can about the interaction, showing her how important it is to us.
- Create time and space to nurture their friendship – every morning since The Boy Foster was born, Scarlette is given an opportunity to tell her brother good morning. We all start the morning with warm welcomes and love, why shouldn’t they? We’ve done it so frequently, now she demands it if she’s up before him. Once he wakes up, she asks to be the one to go greet him first. If we’re going through our days with little intentional thought about how to create space for their friendship, we aren’t modeling to them how to do it themselves.
- Speak often about the importance of their relationship – we tell Scarlette all the time how important her brother is to her. We talk about her role as a big sister, and how brother will always be in her life. We hope to model for them, what a loving brother and sister look like. We believe the sibling bond is of utmost importance, and we want to always encourage and proclaim that over them.
- Give them responsibility regarding their roles – our children are still small, but we are already starting this. When someone else is babysitting our kids, Scarlette is reminded that she is expected to help love and care for baby brother. Now, we don’t expect her to actually carry the weight of that responsibility, but we do want her to start thinking of how she can help with him. As baby brother gets older, he’ll be given the same kinds of expectations. Being a brother/sister is important, and we want our children to feel indebted to one another in caring for each other.
- Don’t allow negative talk about their relationship – we try really hard to limit the amount of language we use about their “fights”. We want to speak love and positivity over their relationship, not negativity. We want them to hear how important their bond is, not how it’s normal for them to fight all day long. How many of you have heard older relatives (or even younger ones) say things like, “Just wait until they’re older, they’ll fight like cats and dogs!” We do not buy into that stereotype as the norm for our children. We are determined to not let these types of things be spoken over them.
We believe in the power of the spoken word. Negative self-fulfilling prophecies almost always begin externally before they implant themselves in our minds as kids. Jaded people who’ve been in the world think their “wisdom” is more helpful than our hopefulness. But we believe that saying positive things over them and to them are the keys to training their minds to develop good self-fulfilling prophecies; especially in relation to their sibling.
They really and truly love each other. I believe their love will continue to grow and deepen and I long to do my part to help their relationship be all that it can be. Sure, they may have seasons that are harder, but what relationship doesn’t?
We highly recommend Dr. Laura Markham’s newest book, Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. That’s our goal here right? Children who grow up to be friends in the deepest way possible.
How have you helped your children nurture their sibling bond?
*You may be interested in reading about how I prepared my child for the new baby here.