There has been a sweet scene playing out at my house this week. My four-year-old is learning how to ride a bike with no training wheels; she has been working on this for awhile but we didn’t ride much in the heat of summer and now we are back at it. Anyway, the sweet part is that my eight-year-old has taken over the job of the initial balancing and getting the bike going for her sister so I can sit and nurse the baby. She decided to do this of her own accord, simply because she likes to help her sister. She will let the end of the bike go and shout, “Mommy! Look at Sophie go!” She is so proud of her sister, and I am so proud of both of them.
Those of you who know me in person know my mantra that “a sibling is the greatest gift you can give your child.” I truly believe these children not only choose us as parents, but also pick their brothers and sisters.
Siblings are the first place where one learns about peer relationships. Even on the most trying days when siblings are fighting and bickering, they still love each other and you still love all of them!
Isn’t it wonderful how different each and every child can be? Oh, we know in our heart as we go to have our second child that they will be different people, yet it can still be shocking that they really are different! We have to figure out each new addition to our family for that reason.
Some of you have heard my theory that “the role has been filled.” In other words, I have observed that in families it seems as if one child is a “high-needs” child (I am not in love with that term, but you all know what I mean when I say that), then it seems the next child realizes that and does something completely different!
As attached parents, we often ask ourselves how can we foster siblings who are attached to each other? I have a few thoughts on this one:
1. Co-sleeping siblings, and as they grow, siblings who share a room. I think this is very important and goes a long way in making up some of the daytime hurts if those occur.
2. Fostering a sense of caretaking of the youngest by the oldest. This is important, because little ones appreciate being assisted, and then will come to the aid of the oldest through imitation.
3. When your children are over 9 and truly have the skills to “work it out”, let them try. Intervene as needed, but work together to solve the problem.
4. Have a family mission statement, family meetings and put forth the family as a team idea in words and action.
5. Choose activities in nature that require teamwork – hiking, camping, orienteering.
6. Spend quantity time together – and yes, I think homeschooling is a huge help in this regard because instead of being separated by age at school, the siblings are together all day.
7. Some siblings get along better when they have some separate friends or activities, depending upon the spacing of the children.
8. Expect your children to get along, visualize your children getting along, and hold that idea within the space. My two oldest have their share of bickering, but they know our home is a place of kindness. I recognize that sometimes there can be a fine line in teasing fun, but there are limits!
*Tandem nursing – I didn’t put this directly on the list because I feel tandem nursing can be a different experience for each family. Some mothers find that they are indeed nursing two or three children, but don’t enjoy nursing them all at the same time and that separate nursing sessions work better for them. Some tandem nursing mothers told me their children fought over the same breast and had other sharing challenges around nursing. Some mothers have the most wonderful, beautiful, heart-warming experiences possible with nursing children holding hands whilst nursing together. So, I think it can enhance a sibling relationship but I don’t view it as “your children will never be close if they don’t tandem nurse.”
Most of all, maintain your “ho-hum” attitude regarding your children’s relationship. Trust it will grow in love as you set forth this expectation and example. Let it grow!