All parents want their kids to enjoy each other’s company and have each other’s back. Here are some ways to build the relationship between siblings and create a strong, lasting friendship.
Help kids channel energy into bonding activities.
Steer them toward games and projects that play to both sibling’s strengths. If one of your kids finds it hard to sit still, suggest building a fort outside instead of a Lego castle inside. More activities that lend themselves to twosomes: Baking cookies or making an obstacle course. See if you can get them to take pictures of each other goofing around that you can print out and tack to the bulletin board.
Allow for time away from each other.
Sometimes too much together time promotes fights. When siblings get a break from each other, and can spend time alone or with friends, they appreciate each other more when they reconnect. Time spent on their own activities also gives competitive kids a way to explore and experiment without measuring themselves against their siblings.
Try not to referee fights.
Sibling squabbles are no fun to listen to. But they teach kids how to negotiate and manage conflict. Another bonus to letting them learn to settle their differences on their own? They won’t accuse you of playing favorites and always taking one kid’s side. Make sure you listen (sympathetically) to both sides. But then stress that you know they can come up with a good solution themselves.
Create family traditions.
Have weekly pizza and movie nights. Or maybe every summer your family hosts its own Olympic games, complete with special made-up events. (Who will be the bottle-top-flicking champion this year?) Or organize 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.
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!
Take family vacations.
When kids are away from friends and familiar routines, it’s amazing how much more they enjoy each other. Your time away together doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. A weekend camping adventure or a road trip to visit grandparents is sure to lead to fun times and a great story to share later.
Find a passion they share.
It doesn’t have to be anything too high-minded. Perhaps your kids look forward to watching World Cup Soccer matches or the latest episode of a reality TV show. Or maybe they both share an obsession with dinosaurs or cars. Nurture that mutual interest.
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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.