All parents want their kids to enjoy each other’s company and have each other’s back. But sometimes, siblings need a little help forming close bonds and understanding each other. That can be especially true if learning and thinking differences are a factor.
Here are some ways to build the relationship between siblings and create a strong, lasting friendship.
1. Help kids channel energy into bonding activities.
Steer siblings toward activities that play to both of their strengths. Maybe they both like building things. If one has a hard time sitting still, suggest they build a fort in the living room or outside, instead of sitting with building blocks. Take into account any challenges they have. An activity that’s too difficult can cause frustration and fighting.
2. Allow for time away from each other.
Sometimes too much together time leads to friction. Siblings need to have breaks from each other and spend time alone or with friends. That time apart can help them appreciate each other more when they’re together. Doing their own activities also gives kids a way to explore and experiment without comparing themselves to their siblings.
3. Try not to referee fights.
Sibling squabbles are no fun to listen to. But they teach kids how to negotiate and manage conflict. Also, when you let them work it out themselves, they’re less likely to accuse you of always taking one child’s side or treating them differently. Make sure you listen to both kids and validate their feelings. But then stress that you know they can come up with a good solution.
4. Create family traditions.
Have weekly pizza and movie nights. Organize a family board-game tournament. Sign up for a volunteer project as a family. Or hold an annual yard sale where everyone pitches in — and use the proceeds to do something fun together. These kinds of activities create memories and a shared history that help create lasting bonds.
5. Team up for chores.
Pick tasks kids can do together such as raking leaves, doing the dishes, or walking the dog. Working together to finish the task fosters a spirit of cooperation. Plus, chores are less a chore when you have a partner!
6. Plan family getaways.
Getting away from regular routines and doing something different gives kids a shared experience. A family getaway doesn't have to be long or expensive. It could be a weekend of camping or a road trip to visit grandparents.
7. Encourage a passion they share.
It doesn’t have to be anything academic or require a big commitment. Maybe your kids look forward to watching soccer matches or the latest episode of a reality TV show. Put out a bowl of popcorn to make it even more fun. Or maybe they both are obsessed with dinosaurs or cars. Nurture that mutual interest.
About the author
About the author
Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.
Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.