7 Things You Can Do To Foster Better Relationships in Your Family
Having tween and teen siblings can be, shall we say, challenging? Sibling rivalry has been an age-old challenge and raising teenagers growing up in the same household can feel like a bloody battleground.
There are days I want to wear some armor and dive into the war with nothing but explosive screams to “STOP. IT. NOW!”
There are, of course, wonderful things about siblings, but let’s focus on the slew of combinations that all add up to conflicts, comparison, and a wholelotta complaining.
The most recent offense that ignited a wildfire of outbursts in our home was the apparent crossing of boundaries, as my 15-year old daughter claimed my almost 13-year old son was “In my space, mom!”
My son was literally sitting three feet away from her.
Before I could respond, my son inched just a wee bit closer.
Well played, little provocative one. Well played.
It doesn’t take much for a sibling to notice any unfairness, comparing every single detail of our duties with the other sibling and sounding the alarm for justice.
It also doesn’t take much for our kids to tattle like toddlers when the other one has somehow slipped on responsibilities or house rules.
Our kids to take great care in addressing concerns toward their sibling’s behaviors when they themselves need to be minding their own business.
And it’s clearly apparent our kids have an uncanny ability to tappity tap tap on the other sibling’s exposed nerves, consequently sparking a blazing wildfire of upset.
What’s a parent to do, aside from kicking our kids out of the house to find new parents to manage all the fights?
Here are seven ways to help your tween and teen siblings get along:
1. Find common interests among siblings.
Oftentimes, our kids have very different personalities, skill sets, and interests, which makes it hard to find ways for them to connect. But there are always some commonalities you can draw upon to help build their bond. Plan activities around those specific areas they both enjoy. Do they both like certain activities, tv shows, sports, or particular places to go on outings? For example, my kids both love to watch college football, so they will spend time doing that together. They also love amusement parks, so my husband took them to one this summer.
2. Set aside time for them to be together.
Although our tweens and teens often have a packed schedule and they’d rather be with their friends, it’s important to carve out time for the kids to spend together. They may groan about this, but I have found that in the end, they actually end up having fun. Use this time for them to do something together they can enjoy. I often send my kids down to the basement, away from their screens to play a board game like Monopoly and three days later they are still going back downstairs to finish it. Sure, they fight all the way through by blaming the other for cheating, but I also hear laughter too. I’ll call that a win.
3. Expect them to support each other.
Even if our kids are busy with their own activities, make it an integral part of their lives to attend their sibling’s events when possible. If one kid plays a sport, then the other sibling needs to go to their games when they can. If another has a performance, then the same expectations apply. Reinforcing this family rule of showing up for one another can lay a strong foundation of support that will surely develop lasting bonds. One of my greatest joys is watching my kids cheer on the other at a sporting event.
4. Make family activities happen.
When there are tweens and teens in the house, life can be busy and chaotic, it’s almost impossible to plan family time when everyone is rarely together! The reality might be that you grab it when you can. Go out to eat as a family on the way to the game or watch a movie together on a free weekend night. Plan short family vacations that will pull your family out of the hectic pace of life and enrich your relationships while creating wonderful memories.
5. Honor each kid’s inherent gifts, unique personality, and promising potential.
It’s so important to make sure each of our kids understands that we see them as an individual with specific talents and traits, wants and needs. Regularly point out how valuable each of your kids is to your family in their own ways. Acknowledge each child’s characteristics to ensure that although our family is united, we are also each designed differently.
6. Spend quality time alone with each kid.
When our kids feel special and loved, when they have received our individual attention, they are more inclined to feel less threatened by their sibling. Much of sibling rivalry is based on competition and comparison so when they feel valued by their parents equally, it may alleviate some of that.
7. Teach them how to listen and respond respectfully.
When your kids are fighting, try to listen to what is actually going on because often, someone is not being heard. Most of the conflicts in our house are about not being heard or valued by the other sibling. Teaching our kids to listen to one another and respond with respect is the hardest and most significant lesson of all.