They argue, they fight, are jealous of each other – but they also help each other, learn from each other, and are often the first to play with: siblings. We asked an expert how parents can promote a positive relationship between their children. First, they fight over building blocks and Barbies, later over the motorbike, the charming neighborhood, and finally over the inheritance: brothers and sisters. Some siblings also refer to themselves as “best friends”, while others have little contact with one another. Sometimes raising your children can remind you of playing at a casino online; you never know what the outcome will be. Only one thing is the same for most of them: Relationships with siblings are the most permanent ties in a person’s life, usually even longer than with parents, partners, or their own children.
Rivalry is an incentive
In addition to the parents, the siblings are the first exercise field for dealing with emotions as diverse as love, hate, sadness, joy, closeness, familiarity, rejection. The children practice loyalty with their brother or sister, they protect one another and are protected, they help one another and allies against other children. But they are also rivals, testing their dominance, fighting, and arguing. “These less harmonious experiences are also important. Because in the process, children develop a culture of conflict and learn to reconcile, ”says Jacqueline Suter-Pfeiffer, Head of Social Work at the St. Gallen Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services Foundation. The sibling rivalry usually spurs children on in their development: “A baby supports the process of separating older siblings from their mother and thus enables new developmental steps.”
Age difference influences the sibling relationship
The quality of the relationship between the children is already determined in the first days together after the birth of the younger sibling – accordingly, the parents can contribute to whether their offspring will become a bonded bond. It starts earlier than you would think: namely with family planning. Many experts consider an age gap of at least three years between siblings to be ideal. Jacqueline Suter-Pfeiffer and her colleagues also observe this in their deliberations at the St. Gallen Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services Foundation. Siblings with an age gap of 3 years seem to argue less.
The same and the same argue more
The younger the child is when a sibling is born, the more profound are the changes if it suddenly has to share maternal love, parental attention, and its fixed emotional place. Because it cannot yet put its feelings into words. Older children can express themselves better and already have a clearer position in the family and a larger frame of reference. Same-sex also encourage sibling rivalry. Fortunately, even the best-prepared parents cannot influence the sex of the sibling. Otherwise, parents can do a lot to support their children on their way to a good team.
The tips: This is how your children become a strong team
The most important thing, as in all areas in living together with children, is the role model function. “Parents should demonstrate pleasant social behavior to their children in everyday life and show them how to have fun together,” says Jacqueline Suter-Pfeiffer. “That also includes going out with friends of the family.”