You can't force your kids to be close, but you can help them along.

How to Bring Siblings Closer Together

by Tiffany Raiford

Your toddlers probably make you smile, laugh and feel an indescribable amount of love when you see them sharing toys and exhibiting love for one another. The very next second they’re screaming at one another and screaming at you about the other and leaving you wondering if it’s considered child abuse to lock yourself in the bathroom with a box of chocolates and your iPod turned all the way up until Dad gets home. Your kids are great, but they don’t always love one another, and that is perfectly normal. However, you might find yourself hoping that your kids will grow up close together and be the best of friends. Know that fighting over toys and not always wanting to spend time together is par for the course. Know also that you can do things at home to help bring your kids closer together.

1 Listen to your children when they express their feelings to you. When your daughter tells you she wishes she was an only child because her younger brother is so annoying, don’t ignore her feelings -- even if he has been a royal pain that day and you had a moment or two of wondering what you were thinking having a second child. Validate her feelings. Instead of telling her that she has no choice but to love her brother and getting on her for feeling less than loving toward him, tell her that you understand her frustration. Explain to her that baby brothers are annoying sometimes and that it’s perfectly okay for her not to like him all the time. By allowing her to feel what she feels, you are allowing her to feel closer to her brother. If you tell her that she needs to get over it because that’s her brother and she has to love him, you’re just making her dislike him more.

2 Refrain from comparing your toddlers to one another. You want your kids to be close, not competitive. Even when you compare them in a positive manner, you are not helping to bring them closer together. Rather, you are creating an unspoken competition between the two of them. Instead, praise them for their individual strengths and leave the other out of it. If your daughter is always sweet and helpful, praise that. If your son is kind and a good athlete, praise him for that. You don’t have to praise them both at the same time, every time.

3 Stop using labels. You may not even realize that you’re doing it, but you probably are. Labels are terrible for sibling relationships, even when one sibling is very young and completely unaware of your labels. Your older toddler might have been a disastrous train wreck all day long -- it’s actually making you miss the days you could blame his behavior on teething -- but the second you lean over and kiss your younger child and tell her that she’s your good little girl, you’re labeling your kids. The labels you use stick with them and they will live up to them. Telling one she’s good all the time and the other he’s the bossy one is not helping them become closer. Your child won’t want to be close to his sister when Mom and Dad consider her the good one.

4 Let them fight it out and have their own lives. Don’t force your young children to play together if they don’t want to. Don’t force one to include the other when she has friends over to play with. Let them argue and handle their conflicts in a healthy manner. You can bring them closer together by allowing them to live their own lives and love each other on their own terms rather than on yours. You can’t force them to be close, but you can raise them to be individuals in a loving environment, which is the ideal way to bridge the gap.

Tip

  • Don't expect a giant love-fest. Your kids can be very close and still fight from time to time.

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