You know those pictures that show siblings holding hands and running through fields of flowers, happy that they're sharing their time on this planet with another progeny of their parents? Well, they're fiction. They’re photos of good looking models who are cleaner-than-your-kids-ever-will-be and who were likely paid a large sum and who likely returned to their separate corners, hoping that the kid next to them didn't give them cooties. No, the real sibling relationship, as any mom in the trenches can tell you, isn’t quite as rosy. In truth, the interaction between siblings is a complex dance that contains ups and downs, and which starts the moment the second one is born. . . and continuing throughout the entirety of both kids' lives.
Sibling Rivalry – Negative
Most mothers of two children would argue that the old adage, “Going at it like cats and dogs,” should really be amended to, “Going at it like brother and sister.” Yes, siblings can and do fight, and -- often. This reality is exceptionally frustrating to parents who have to referee these constant fits; however, these feuds, while frustrating, aren’t all bad. In truth, the fighting your children do is great practice for the conflict resolution-challenges they will face later in life. Though this knowledge won’t make these fights any easier for you, keep in mind that these fights are temporary and also developmentally advantageous.
Support System – Positive
Though it may not seem so when you watch your two youngsters engage in a hair-pulling, high-pitched scream, including a fight in the middle of your living room carpet, these kiddos will actually provide much support for each other throughout their years, as mutual inhabitants of the same planet (not the least of which will be sharing stories of growing up together). As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports, the support siblings provide each other is associated with enhanced feelings of self-worth, a decrease in reported levels of loneliness and a decline in the number of behavior problems a child exhibits. These benefits are the result of the fact that a person with a sibling often feels less alone in the world, because she has someone to turn to, with whom she has shared many life experiences.
Perceptions of Favoritism – Negative
Do you have a favorite child? Of course not. Does one of your children think you favor the other? Most likely. If you are in the lucky position of being a mom to two or more beautiful children, one of the most challenging tasks you will face is preventing the perception of favoritism. Because a child who feels like his sibling is favored could internalize this frustration, potentially leading to problems later in life, it is vital that you squelch any thoughts of favoritism that your children may present to you. Also, be aware of how much time you spend with each of your children, aiming, ideally, to divide your time relatively equitably, to take away any fodder your child could have for arguing that you favor his sister.
Communication Practice – Positive
Communicating effectively is not a skill that you are born with. As a mother, you know this, because you remember bringing home your squishy little ball of a baby who had no way to communicate other than emitting an ear-piercing wail. To become a master communicator, your child must practice communication often. One of the best practice partners your child will have is her sibling, adding yet another benefit to this relationship. Particularly if the siblings in question are close to the same age, having this live-in communication partner can be vitally beneficial as your children learn to express themselves through words and actions.