Nurturing the Sibling Relationship for Long Term Impact
Few events in life bring with them more questions than becoming a parent. How to provide the best environment and nurturing possible are just a few. As more little bundles joined our family, so did more questions and challenges. Many we plan on struggling with for years to come.
But here is one you might not think about. What can parents do today, while their children are young, to influence the adult relationship they will someday have? The sibling relationship is almost always the longest relationship anyone will ever have. All the more reason to make it as rich and rewarding as possible.
I’ve also noticed something interesting when speaking to parents. Most are petrified about what kind of relationship their children will sometimes have. Many parents do not enjoy a very positive relationship with their siblings (a thought for another day) and they want better for their children. So do my wife and I! This question led to the research and ultimately publication of the book Close Kids – Connect Your Children For Life.
So what makes siblings close? Is it a series of shared experiences or common values? Pure luck? There is a wide difference of adult relationships among siblings, but how can parents affect the outcome? The short answer is “yes”, parents can certainly influence the outcome!
The first thing parents need to make sure of is a subtle point to an obvious element…time. Kids need to have the time to just be together in a playful environment. It may take some effort and planning, but putting children in situations where they just enjoy each other’s company is a great thing. While this is certainly not a novel idea, it is, in practice, often overlooked. It is also measurably harder to do today than days of old when sometimes the only entertainment for siblings was each other.
The challenge is for parents to find balance in what we let children do. Balance time together, balance time alone, and balance the million and one other things going on in a family. Balance is ultimately found by recognizing all the different activities your crew is doing and not being dominated by a few.
While time is a broad subject, there were some very specific things families can do to help bond their children together. Trying to cram all the “Close Kids Factors” into a small article is not possible, but I want to share some of my favorites with you!
In this hustle and bustle world, our children are involved in more activities than ever. The following practice never crossed my mind before this process started. That is the importance of making time for our children to support each other in their individual activities. Giving kids the time to cheer for their brothers and sisters ended up being the strongest individual factor contributing to a close adult relationship. In fact, it is notably more essential for brothers and sis-ters to cheer on and support each other than it is for their parents to do the same thing.
Here is another factor that really surprised me. Reading aloud as a family had a very strong impact on connecting siblings. In fact, there is one way to crunch our data that makes this the number one trait on the list. While making time to read together after a long day can be tough, it seems to be well worth the effort!
We have all heard about how important it is to eat together as a family. There are even studies dedicated to just how we communicate and bond around mealtime. What I had not seen before and surprised me is what goes on around the table after we eat. Scoring higher than just eating together was eating together plus continuing to sit and visit after the meal was done. Our study found families that spent an extra fifteen minutes together after dinner was done produced closer children than those who did not.
These are just the beginning of specific family practices anyone can accomplish to help their children grow up with a wonderful and rich bond. Some additional ones include giving children the chance to be heard, being consistent as parents and allowing…no…embracing the differences in your children. My very favorite line that came from the book is this, “Let yourself and your family be fascinated by the differences in your children, not frustrated by them.”
The sibling relationship is worth fighting for. Together, parents can make more of a difference that you might realize. My hope is we all one day see our adult children enjoying each other and their families fully. Then we can truly say, “Job well done”.
Brett A Johnston Author, Close Kids – Connect Your Children For Life Closekids.com
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