Q:I have been home with my three kids and husband since the start of social distancing and the fighting between siblings who are close in age keeps happening. What are some things we can do to ease it while we are stuck in the same house?
Boy oh boy, I feel your pain. It’s that old “too much togetherness might not be such a good thing.” Any parent with more than one child will be able to relate, I imagine.
As much as we all want our kids to be close, to appreciate and enjoy being together, we also know that a break from one another is a good thing.
I wonder if any of your kids share a room? If any do, it might be time to dilute that togetherness. Offer the sharing sibs alternating nights to try out a new place to bed down. Maybe sleep in the den, or in the playroom, or even in the baby’s room, but not on your floor. (That will create competition.)
Alternatively, you create the ideas for places to sleep, write them on slips of paper and put them in a jar, and let the child whose night it is choose the place they will sleep by picking it out of the jar.
Are you able to create a special private place for each child? While I am not trying to create a financial burden for you during these times when finances might be stretched, a small tent or teepee for each is a great idea. (If you are resourceful and have old linens, each can even make his own private place.)
Even if your children don’t share a room, that private tent gives a strong message, in addition to providing time alone. And let each child make a sign that says, “Keep Out” or “Welcome.” It is her/his place, and each is in control of the admittance.
While we usually say that sibling not-getting-alongness is often stimulated by the child’s desire to get the most of his parent’s attention, this time there is something more. The kids need a break from one another. Before the pandemic, each had his/her own life. Now they are likely on top of one another.
It’s time for you to make a schedule of “special times” with Mom or Dad. Make sure each child has his/her alone time with you, in a private place, a few times a week. No siblings allowed.
Yes, it is demanding of you, but so is all of this, to be honest. Yup, it falls on the parents.
When the child’s bucket is full, when s/he gets what is needed in the form of parental attention, the sibling shenanigans will lessen.
In the Siblings chapter of my book, “Just Tell Me What to Say,” I address how to encourage the children’s positive relationships. I discuss how family rituals, family fun, great family activities can increase the pleasure your kids will have together going forward.
In these, make sure that each child has an equal turn and gets her/his fair share. For example:
- Have a family camp out in the backyard
- Have a family pillow fight on Thursdays
- Eat dinner under the table once a week
- Have family movie night with popcorn or other treats that your kids prepare
- Let the kids have sleepovers in one another’s rooms
I am just trying to wet your whistle. But families who are close will breed siblings who are close, as long as the siblings’ needs for attention and some separateness have been met.
By the way, another form of sibling closeness happens when your kids are naughty together. Seriously! Partners in crime are partners, after all. You might find a way to help two of them “trick Daddy” by hiding his slippers. But they have to do it together.
You will be surprised by how well they get along when they are in the dog house together.
BBB is a child development and behavior specialist in Pacific Palisades. She can be reached through her website, betsybrownbraun.com.
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