Parental Worries: How to Manage Sibling Rivalry

Parental Worries: How to Manage Sibling Rivalry

23 March 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

My children are not besties. 

We get it. We want our children to love each other and be best friends. If you have a sibling, you know the importance of that bond becoming stronger from a young age and developing into a lifeline at times. The thing that we rarely remember, though, is the days of “I hate you” or “my brother sucks.” We conveniently forget these days as presently we have a better relationship with our brother or sister. This might not always be the case, not even for us, but it is the dream at times. According to Feinberg et al. (2012), sibling interaction is often ignored in research and preventative interventions – so you are already ahead of the crowd with this worry!

How do I help my children create that bond with their sibling? 

We can guide our children, but we can’t instill our beliefs in them. Even though these ideas and thoughts might be important, our children have their paths to follow. Don’t worry – there are things we can implement to help guide them to spend more fun together, hoping that this will become a motivation for more time together!

3 tips to get siblings playing together: 

Roll the dice!

Children love games. We can create a game where they need each other to finish it. Board games were always excellent tools for families to play together. Playing “Uno Switch” is a game in which you need more than one player, and it is great fun! If you create a gigantic dice, you can write down which number aligns with which game.

For example, your children can choose three games each (if you have two children, for example), and then you can indicate which number corresponds to which game. If they take turns rolling the dice, they have to play the corresponding game for at least a specific amount of time. Help them create the strategies and watch them laugh and play together!

Family affirmations.

When it feels that global worries and stress have exponentially increased, it’s essential to focus on the good. Not only of ourselves but also those around us. If we start a family, “what do you love about (person),” we can focus on one thing each, and then the rest of the family can give an example of this quality.

For instance, during dinner time, we can ask one of our children to name one thing they like about their sibling. They might say that their sibling is great at sports. We can then share stories about this sibling being great at a sport or game, and this experience can become a story for everyone to share in. Each person has a turn to name one thing they like about another, and then the rest of the family has a chance to add to the characteristic or experience. This is an excellent way to create positivity and motivation to engage in these activities, whether a quick game after dinner or a plan for the next day.

Special sibling time!

If we schedule it and focus on the games they can play, it will be easier to engage in these activities. Create a “special sibling time” of about 30 minutes per day. The more we spend time with a person, the more likely we want to increase the 30 minutes to an hour or two a day!

You are doing a fantastic job guiding your children to play together. If these strategies don’t work immediately, remember an authentic relationship takes time. They will find their way either very close together or at a distance. You are doing what you can, and thank you for being you! 

Feinberg, M. E., Solmeyer, A. R., & McHale, S. M. (2012). The third rail of family systems: sibling relationships, mental and behavioral health, and preventive intervention in childhood and adolescence. Clinical child and family psychology review, 15(1), 43–57.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental