The holidays can be a busy family time, and with a lot of time together occasionally comes some conflict. The Child Mind Institute has some suggestions for how you can help your kids get along with each other (also available in Spanish).
Sibling conflict has been around as long as there have been siblings. Whether it’s competing over a parent’s attention or over a toy or a screen, the close proximity and constant contact of siblings provides many opportunities for conflict to arise. That also provides you the opportunity to teach critical life skills like compromising and getting along with others. Here are some suggestions from the article on how to help your kids get along:
- Set Ground Rules: Conflicts often arise over a limited thing, whether it’s a toy, what show to watch, game to play, or who has Dad read their good night story. Clear schedules and systems on how access to those limited resources are shared goes a long way to avoiding conflicts.
- Be Specific and Age-Appropriate: The tools you use to help your kids manage their conflicts need to spell out what is expected in a way they understand. That may mean sticker charts for the youngest ones, a contract for older ones, or perhaps simply some conversation and walking through resolving conflict with a high schooler.
- Provide (Lots of) Positive Reinforcement: Kids can sometimes use conflict as a way of getting adult attention. While you do need to step into the middle of some conflicts, letting them work out smaller conflicts with a few prompts on how to do so can avoid giving too much attention to behavior you don’t want. Likewise, making sure you praise your kids when you catch them sharing a toy, playing nicely together, or taking turns helps to reinforce that behavior you do want.
- Be Open About Differences Between Siblings: Kids have a strong sense of “fair,” and conflicts often arise when they perceive that how their sibling is being treated isn’t fair compared to how they are being treated. Stress the difference between “fair” and “equal.” An older child may need more screen time to do homework or be allowed other privileges that a younger child may perceive as unfair, but different rules can reflect different needs and still be fair.
- Clear Up Roles and Responsibilities: Older siblings sometimes end up with different roles and responsibilities at times, such as babysitting younger siblings. Those changing roles, from a peer (sibling) to a higher position (babysitter) can lead to conflict. Make sure you spell out what you expect of the older child in terms of how they should interact with their younger siblings and when they should reach out to you for help as well.
- Encourage Connection: Siblings are the first playmates and peers they interact with, which provides lots of opportunities to reinforce those personal interaction skills you want to reinforce. Make sure you praise positive behavior towards each other, reward their working together, and promote opportunities to build shared experiences.
While it might not seem like it at times, the frequent conflicts among siblings provide opportunities to learn how to get along with others in a safe environment. Check out the full article for more information on how to help your kids get along with each other.