Conflicts between siblings are a normal part of family life, especially during summer break when more time is spent together. However, the recent need to spend more than the usual amount of time together quarantining may cause the tensions between siblings to build to an unusual intensity this summer. Here are a few tips to help reduce conflicts and help ‘keep the peace’ during summer break.
JEALOUSY FOR ATTENTION
It is important to evaluate how much one-on-one time you are spending with each of your children. If one child feels he is not receiving the same amount of attention as his siblings, it may lead to negative behavior towards them. Your child may act aggressively towards a sibling to get your attention. De-escalate this competition for your attention by spending equal amounts of individual quality time with each of your children. Choose activities, such as reading a book together or doing a craft, that allow you to interact with your child. If he is watching TV or playing a video game, he may not even remember you spent time with him. Also, never compare siblings to one another. This will only create hurt feelings and fuel even more intense competition.
If there are certain toys your kids fight over, set up a system to help your kids learn how to take turns, such as setting a timer. Also, spending too much time together playing games and other competitive activities may lead to conflict. Make a variety of non-competitive activities available for use during free-play time, such as crafts, a play kitchen or Legos. In your household schedule, include plenty of time for exercise and try to keep younger kids on their nap schedule. Your kids may be more likely to engage in conflicts when physical needs, such as sleep and physical activity, are not met. Also, schedule some ‘quiet time’ each day for kids to separate from each other and spend time alone.
SET HOUSEHOLD RULES
Setting expectations is especially important for kids who are still working on social skills and tend to react impulsively when provoked by siblings. Designate a location where your child can go to cool down when he is upset and teach him to wait there until he is calm enough to respond to conflict appropriately, without yelling or name-calling. The household rules should include consequences for unacceptable behavior. However, do not forget to praise your kids when you see them respecting the boundaries you have set and working out their conflicts on their own.
Empathize with your children when they have a disagreement but do not always step right in and solve the issue. Listen to your child describe the problem, even if it sounds like a trivial disagreement. To your child, it may be a major issue of contention. After listening to your kids explain the issue, if it is age-appropriate, encourage your kids to ‘work it out.’ For younger kids, giving a choice between two possible ways to resolve the issue is one method of providing coaching without resolving the issue for them. Conflict resolution is an important life skill and is crucial to maintaining relationships. However, keep an eye on the situation, and if the situation has moved beyond bickering to name-calling or physical violence, you should immediately step in and put a stop to the hurtful behavior.