Playing Nice, How to Create Healthy Sibling Relationships

Many parents are intimately familiar with the signs of sibling rivalry: yelling, pinching, slapping, shoving and threats to tell their parents. At one point or another, nearly every family with two or more children experiences some sort of sibling conflict, often caused by jealousy, com- petition, frustration or anger. However, healthy sibling relationships are some of the most enriching lifelong bonds a child can have. While you may not be able to avoid every quarrel, you can help foster the relationships that matter most in your children’s lives.


When a former only child finds their identity threatened by another baby on the way, feelings of jealousy and negativity are common. Depending on how old your child is, he or she may not understand how to share your attention or resent the newcomer in the family. With everyone oohing and ashing over the new baby, the older sibling feels replaced or unworthy.

Other siblings might be ecstatic to welcome a new brother or sister, only to start fighting once they’re a little older. As children develop and begin to define who they are as individuals, they vie for parents’ attention or feel the need to show that they are separate from their siblings. They may struggle to find ways to play positively and pick fights instead. Children also learn from their environment. When parents react to conflict or frustration with aggression, violence or yelling, children are more likely to respond in the same way. No matter what’s at the root of your children’s rivalry, the most important thing you can do is cultivate healthy family dynamics.Embrace the special relationship between your children, but don’t forget to acknowledge- edge their needs as individuals.

One of your many roles as a parent is to help your children create positive memories  and healthy emotions toward one other. Here are a few dos and don’ts for doing so. DO encourage sibling time. Especially if siblings are farther apart in age, it can be hard for them to identify activities that they both enjoy. Be creative in suggesting activities that will interest both children and get them playing together.

DON’T interrupt happy play (unless it’s unavoidable). If your children are blissfully getting along, laughing and having a good time together, think before you ask them to stop. Do they really need to clean their rooms or go to the store at this moment? If it can wait, let them enjoy each other’s company.