How To Foster Sibling Love


Siblings playing video games together.Siblings fight. That’s just what they do. When put in close quarters, they fight for attention, to be heard at the dinner table, and to get their way. They argue over taking turns, sharing toys, and sharing space.

There is an almost never-ending list of things that could ignite a squabble – a coveted seat on the couch, a preferred marker color for a shared art project, the last cookie, the chance to tell a story first, the seat by the window – you get the idea.

But when things are going well, there is almost no greater gift than sibling love. Siblings know each other inside and out. They are more than built-in playmates; they can be each other’s loudest cheerleaders, favorite co-conspirators, and best advocates.

Siblings help shoulder family responsibilities and carry on family traditions. Sibling love, when carried into adulthood, grows into cousin love when nieces and nephews come along. This means that children grow up with built-in best friends whom they can call when they need advice, a favor, or help with a major decision.

As I work on the relationships between my four kids, I want them to have a strong foundation of love for each other. I’ve assembled a list of tips from my own experience and friends with strong sibling friendships. I’m hoping that with some patience, creativity, and mindfulness, our children will develop friendships with their siblings that will last a lifetime.

1. Foster downtime together and promote playing together.

Letting kids have some unstructured time together helps them come up with games and creative ways to play together. Our kids have spent time together building Lego cities, dino worlds, leprechaun traps, and miniature playscapes. I try to say yes as often as I can to requests to make cookies, slime, or a special craft. Nurturing downtime together encourages our kids to rely on each other for entertainment.

2. Find a shared project or interest and do it together.

Our kids wanted to turn our swing set into a playhouse. It became a shared project where everyone got excited to share ideas and bring them to life. When we were choosing a dog, our kids researched breeds and brainstormed names together. Getting everyone involved in a project as equal partners fosters collaboration and friendship.

3. Have children involved in planning for the family.

When our kids continued to fight over whose turn it was to feed the dog, they worked together on a shared chore chart to divide the tasks during the week. Splitting up family responsibilities fairly—and getting everyone involved—helps your kids feel like a team. Extra points if they work together to make a colorful chart for the fridge.

4. Get everyone involved in family traditions.

Celebrations feel more fun when everyone is involved. We all brainstorm birthday party themes, shop together for decorations, and make the goodie bags. For holidays, we plan the menu together, choose fun games, and work together to clean up for guests. It’s more fun to find the tradition your kids love the most and keep them involved.

5. Encourage children to help each other.

We have friends who started a tradition of letting the older kids read to the younger kids before bed. When flustered in the morning, I’ll send a child upstairs to help pick out an outfit or find a missing shoe for their sibling. Letting kids help each other makes everyone feel better.

6. Give children shared missions.

Let your kids feel like they are on the same team. We set timers to clean the basement, and the kids work together like crazy to clean up before time runs out. Playing some games of parents vs. kids is also fun, like making a puzzle, shooting baskets, or getting something done “better.”

7. Be cheerleaders.

Our weekend schedules can be crazy, but we try to get everyone on the sidelines for games, concerts, and performances. Let your kids be each other’s loudest cheerleaders.

8. Work in some one-on-one time.

Time together is important, but so is time apart. Our neighbor always has one-on-one dates for her kids on her calendar. When kids feel like they are seen and loved as individuals, It can help prevent jealousy or resentment among siblings.

Do you have good relationships with your siblings? What do you think are the best ways to foster sibling love?


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