In an ideal world, our children would always get along and see the value in their relationship with one another.
In reality, however, those sibling relationships take effort and more than a little parental encouragement.
Child, adolescent and family psychotherapist Katie Hurley explains the importance of the sibling relationship:
"Trust and security play integral roles in shaping sibling relationships. Establishing a helping relationship early on, no matter their age difference, teaches them the importance of being there for one another. It's also essential to avoid comparisons and labels, as this fuels competition and resentment. Although siblings will undoubtedly argue at times, the knowledge of their unbreakable bond will carry them through the ups and downs that life has to offer."
Encourage them to plot. We can reinforce their bond in fun ways without even drawing attention to what we're doing.
Here are four of our favorite fun ideas:
Give them control
Let them scheme for the greater good by putting them in charge of planning an upcoming weekend morning. Make a mid-week announcement that you're handing over your Saturday or Sunday morning to them and let them plan and surprise you with the agenda. They'll have to brainstorm and devise a plan without asking for your input or help with settling disputes.
Mix it up
Send them into the kitchen with a recipe that requires them to work together. Divide up the ingredients and let each child be responsible for some. They'll have to rely on each other to complete the recipe and they'll share a sense of pride when they're serving up their final product.
Play games that divide parents onto one team and siblings onto the other. Trivial Pursuit, charades and hide-and-seek are just a few options. Getting them to team up for a common cause will help them to bond.
Have a campout
Have them plan a backyard campout. While you're pitching the tent, give them the task of gathering up all of the things they'll need for their night outside. As they run around finding their supplies, they'll be working together toward a fun and memorable reward.
Strong, healthy sibling relationships don't just happen. They take effort and require care. Getting our kids on the same team will provide them with a solid foundation for a closeness that will last them through adulthood -- which is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give them.