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Sibling conflict isn't pleasant, but it is common. Conflict often happens because children feel that they have to compete with their siblings for a parent's attention and feedback. Or it may happen simply because they have very different needs and personalities.
Sibling conflict isn't all bad. When handled well, it can help kids learn how to manage their emotions, understand different viewpoints, and work with others to solve problems.
That's where you come in. These ideas can help end the struggle and bring peace to your household.
Disagreements and problems can bring out strong emotions. The most important first step to solving these problems is to get everyone involved to a calmer state. Your young children can learn to do this, however, they cannot do it on their own. They'll learn best by seeing you calm yourself first and then by having lots of chances to practice themselves. Once everyone is calm, you can work together to solve the problem.
Try to step in only if a child may get hurt or is being taken advantage of. But to limit arguing, you may want to set a time limit. For example, you might tell your children to come to you only if they can't work things out after 15 minutes. Notice and comment if they can reach a good solution without your help.
If you have to get involved in a fight, keep siblings apart until tempers have cooled. Then:
Explain that fair may not mean equal. For example, an older child may have more privileges than a younger child, such as being allowed to stay up later.
This can lead to competition and resentment. Appreciate each child's efforts and abilities. Look for ways that your kids can build on their strengths and feel good about themselves.
Kids need some privacy and a chance to do things without their siblings. This helps them build their own identity. It may be especially important for multiples, such as twins or triplets.
For example, you might schedule half an hour a week with each child. Use this time to do things your child enjoys and that build the child's strengths.
During this time, you could also give your child some practice in problem-solving. For example, you might say that you think you have hurt a friend's feelings by mistake, and ask your child what they would do in that situation. This can be a nice way to bond and to learn how your child reasons and approaches conflict.
Be aware of how you handle conflict. Your kids learn by watching you.
Visit HealthyParentsHealthyChildren.ca to learn more about reducing sibling conflict.
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Adaptation Date: 3/2/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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