Managing Sibling Bond During the Lockdown
A sibling bond is one of the several other significant relationships we experience right from our childhood. It also plays a crucial role in shaping our relationships as an adult. Sibling rivalry is found in every family which has more than one child, in varying degrees, but managing it during the lockdown can be a challenging task for many parents. Unlike the times bygone, children are spending almost all the time home, either studying or playing online.
In such a situation, these powerhouses of energy can explode in the form of friction with their sibling/s. Managing these can take a toll on parents who are equally exhausted while balancing the act of work from home. Instead of leaving the loose ends and waiting for them to get over it, parents can proactively foster a healthy relationship among siblings. Here are a few tips for parents.
1. Avoid, if possible STOP, comparing your children
Psychologists have pointed out that sibling rivalry can have far reaching consequences in a child’s overall self development. When parents indulge in constant comparison among their children, the child can start doubting his/her self-worth. For instance, saying “your brother could eat with his own hand when he was of your age” can have a long lasting effect on the child. This can further accelerate the belief of “I am not good enough;” such a child is bound to exhibit low confidence and heightened fear/anxiety in scenarios outside their home as well. They may grow up to become adults who seek constant validation from others and avoid taking up leadership roles as they lack assertiveness.
On the other hand, this can also set them on a ‘default competition mode,’ wherein the child’s only driving force is to win over the other. This attitude can translate into other areas of their adult life, where failures could have a detrimental impact. Instead of comparing their behaviours at a particular age, parents could rather help each of them set goals and tasks which are subjective and later help them evaluate themselves in their individual capacity.
2. Favouritism is a big NO
Often parents tend to take sides in a sibling fight which is picked up on by children at a subtle level; the thought “my sister/brother is mommy’s/daddy’s favourite” gets established. This also carries the potential to result in future conflict which eventually disrupts the family environment. Moreover, amidst the sibling fight, parents end up in arguments while taking sides; it can further result in marital discord among the parents. To avoid creating a war-like scene at home, parents can take efforts to spend dedicated time with each child, at least once a week. During the current lockdown period, parents could exchange roles of spending time with their children and consciously avoid taking sides or holding skewed perceptions.
3. Lookout for physical or mental abuse
At times sibling quarrel can take up an ugly shape; they might indulge in physical or verbal abuse. While most of the parents consider it to be a ‘normal sibling conflict’ but research shows that adults who have survived sibling abuse report long lasting effect on their overall wellness. As a parent, one needs to be more vigilant and careful with their children’s behaviour with each other, especially during a fight. It is of utmost importance to encourage each child to set their boundaries. Also parents can facilitate setting ground rules, wherein bullying, verbal abuse, hitting, teasing can be explicitly be marked in red. Parents can introduce an emotional bin in the house, where a physical dustbin can be placed in some part of the house. Whenever the child/or even the parent himself/herself feels the need to vent out a feeling which could possibly leave the other feeling upset too, he/she can write it down on a paper, crumble it and throw it in the dust bin.
4. Nourishing each child’s individuality
It is a common a practice, especially in an Indian family setup, the elder child is forced to take up the younger sibling’s responsibility. This act should be executed cautiously by taking the child’s consent; in no way should the child feel the burden which could eventually show up in the form of resentment. If the child doesn’t really like looking after his/her younger sibling, but enjoys accompanying one of the parents in kitchen or gardening, respect him/her for that choice. In a scenario where a new child is brought into the family, the elder once should be respected and given equal amount of love and attention. Also, as a parent, one needs to organize his/her time well; balance the time between your children. Make sure you aren’t, unknowingly, indulging in behaviours that favor one over the other/s, may be because he/she resembles you more. Praising all the children equally, also has to be consciously looked after.
These are some simple yet effective ways of dealing with sibling rivalry at home, especially in the current times of COVID-19 outbreak. If parents are able to monitor and assist their young minds right from start, and on a daily basis, this sibling relation can turn out to be a fulfilling and strong bond.
(The author is a Ph.D. Psychology, MBA-HR and Developmental Psychologist, Clinical hypnotherapist, and Arts Based Therapy Practitioner. Views expressed in the article are her own)