Vivian is a parent who shares advice stemming from experience and wisdom that can help you with issues every family faces.
If you’re old enough to remember Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog from Looney Tunes, picture them chatting amicably before punching into work each day. “Morning, Ralph,” greeted Sam. “Morning, Sam,” Ralph replied. Off the clock, they appeared to be pals, but once the 8:00 am whistle blew, they were sworn enemies. Ralph spends the work day repeatedly, and ineptly, trying to capture Sam until 5:00 pm, when they punch out and resume their friendship. Do your children share a similar relationship? In public, they are bosom buddies, but at home during school break times, their perpetual feuding and inability to interact peacefully is exasperating. Here are six easy strategies to diffuse sibling rivalry and transform your home from a battleground to a tranquil haven.
1. Change the Scenery
No matter how relieved your kids are to be done with school for a while, the old adage holds true that familiarity breeds contempt. The more your kids are at home together, the more they will get under each other’s skin. They won’t agree on activities to do together, and the older sibling will torment the younger one. Simple, everyday matters are turned into competitions that beget fighting—like who gets to the dinner table first, who buckles their seatbelt first, which side of the shopping cart they hold onto, and who gets to help bag the most groceries at the checkout. Each child maintains a scrupulously accurate mental score card to guarantee they are getting their fair share of involvement and choice. This is maddening to the parent who just wants to enjoy interacting with her children.
Changing the scenery goes a long way in diffusing sibling tensions. You are shifting gears and centering their attention on something else besides pestering each other. For example, invite friends over for a play date. Your kids will be so intent on having fun with their pals that squabbling won’t cross their minds. Go on a picnic, visit a park, take a woodsy hike, shop at the mall, or head to the pool. Tell your kids in advance of the destination or activity that awaits once all of you accomplish x, y, and z at home. They will be motivated to cooperate to attain the mutual goal. The purpose of changing scenery for your kids isn’t about keeping them entertained the entire break—it’s about distracting them during critical junctures to reduce aggression and restore tranquility.
2. Schedule One-On-One Time
They may not be cognizant of it, but your children are in competition for your attention. Even though you treat your children equally, each one feels slighted and ruminates that you favor the other sibling over them. To minimize jealousy, schedule one-on-one time with your kids whenever possible. This can be as unpretentious as snuggling for story time or playing a board game or video game with them. You can also choose to take one to breakfast or lunch, putt-putting, the movies, or shopping. Be sure to select activities that are comparable but that keep each child’s individual interests in mind. One-on-one time affirms your love, appreciation, and interest in each child and makes them feel secure enough to share you with siblings when you return home.
3. Incorporate Daily Physical Activity
Pediatricians recommend no more than two hours of screen time per day. When your kids are clashing and in your hair, it can be tempting to offer screen and let them devolve into a zombie-like state. However, this temporary catharsis explodes into an escalated cacophony once screen is removed. Have you noticed this? All of the pent up energy compounds, and they antagonize each other even more. You can weaken their angst by directing their energies towards physical activities. Invest in a trampoline or take them to an indoor trampoline park. Go on a family bike ride, turn a hike into a scavenger hunt, visit an indoor soft play, go to a water park, or encourage them to engage in a sports activity outside. Incorporate enough exercise and physical activity into their daily routines that they won’t have enough energy left to fight.
4. Require Time Alone
Siblings take each other for granted because they are together so much of the time over break. Give them a chance to miss each other. Insist they go to their own separate spaces in the house and spend some time alone for one to two hours every day. They can engage in imaginative play with their own toys, read, paint, draw, work on a hobby, or do a puzzle. Consider letting them each take a turn staying overnight at grandma’s house. At the end of the scheduled separation time, they will be craving interaction and more willing to play with each other democratically and with less enmity.
5. Assign Chores
As the famous axiom states —idle time creates evil minds. Routines and schedules are compromised during break times, and some days, your kids will find it difficult to fill the time. It gives them more opportunity to target their siblings with a barrage of torment. Redirect their energies towards productive pursuits, like chores around the house or regular employment if they are old enough. When your kids are engaged with drying dishes, sorting laundry, mowing the lawn, emptying the trash, or cleaning their rooms, they won’t have time to aggravate each other.
6. Include Learning Time
To combat learning loss that occurs over extended school breaks, require time be set aside each day for cranial calisthenics. Equip your kids with Summer Bridge workbooks to review prior skills and prepare for the upcoming school year. Use flashcards to practice math facts or sight words. Have them journal about their daily activities and tape pictures alongside each entry for a great memory book. Find simple STEM activities they can work on together as well as science projects that are so cool, they won’t even realize how much they are learning. To encourage more cooperation between siblings, purchase a copy of Difficult Riddles for Smart Kids. This book is fun for the whole family and the perfect tool to liven up road trips over break. It stretches the mind and helps your kids hone their logical thinking proficiency.
Parents imagine school break time to be a perfect symphony of all family members blending together in perfect, loving harmony. Their fantasy is quickly shattered by reality since nearly all siblings bicker. You can minimize the feuding over break by integrating these six easy tips into your daily grind for the best family time ever!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.