How to Strengthen Sibling Bonds

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Between holidays, snow days, and sick days, my daughters are getting an awful lot of together time lately. Sometimes, quality bonding is enough to drive this Mama to the brink, but I actually find that the more time they spend together, the more they like to spend time together.

3 Tips for Reinforcing Sibling Relationships

Here are some ideas for making the best out of togetherness and strengthening sibling bonds:

1. Emphasize Cooperation over Competition. I am a firm believer that siblings learn their best lessons about conflict resolution, winning graciously, and losing gracefully from one another, but I also know quite well that creating opportunities for young people to work together toward a common goal is one of the best ways to promote strong bonds. Next time you have a long snow day ahead or weekend with no plans (now doesn’t that sound dreamy!), consider putting away the competitive board games and taking out puzzles, Lego sets, modeling clay and other materials that lend themselves to cooperative (and more imaginative!) family interactions.

2. Get Out! One of the best ways I know to stop kid bickering and promote sibling bonding is to take a breather—of fresh air, that is. Take advantage of the snowy weather to get the kids out of doors. Have them make snow angels together or build a snowman. Lend them the scarf off your neck to keep the snowman warm and encourage their creativity.  We even pull out the old baby clothes to create our little snowman family. You just can’t imagine how cute snow babies are in their little tutus and flowered snow baby headbands.   Have fun with it!  If there is enough snow on the ground where you live, you can even build their little igloo home! Outdoor play is great physical exercise, relief from winter cabin fever, and unbeatable sibling bonding.

3. Agree to Disagree. One of the biggest misunderstandings among siblings is the notion that brothers and sisters have to agree (think: DVD selections, where to go for dinner, who gets to push the elevator buttons) in order to get along. One of the best things that you can do to strengthen the sibling relationship is to teach your kids the difference between disagreeing and arguing.

If you’re feeling professorial, sit your “students” down at a table and write the words “arguing” and “disagreeing” in two separate columns, at the top of a piece of paper. Ask your kids to define each term and then engage in a little brainstorming exercise, asking them to name the different kinds of behaviors that characterize each word. This activity can be quick or extended, depending on your kids’ interest level and time, but no matter how long you spend, it is a useful and memorable way to make the important point that all people have varying preferences but that these differences need not have any bearing on how we feel about or behave towards each other. Relationships are strengthened when kids learn that it is perfectly okay to agree to disagree.

For more tips on strengthening sibling relationships and teaching kids effective conflict resolution skills, keep your eyes out for Signe’s upcoming book available June 2011, How to Be Angry: A 15-Session Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids. For more information on Signe and her books, check out her blog The Passive Aggressive Diaries.
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