20 ways Christian moms can encourage good sibling relationships
When my husband and I talked about having kids, we talked about sibling relationships and what we wanted for our kids. Before deciding for sure to add a second child to our family, we talked about it even more. Sibling relationships can be wonderful, but they can also be complicated.
Both my husband and I have older brothers, and we have different relationships with them. From the beginning of our parenthood journey, we have worked to be intentional in encouraging grace-filled sibling relationships for our kids. We want them to be friends. Our prayer and desire is for them to be close and be able to turn to one another throughout their entire lives.
Now 9 and 12, my children do get along well. They enjoy spending time together. (And they also enjoy spending time apart!) They aren’t perfect, but all-in-all they have a good, solid relationship. They look out for each other and often, my youngest has more courage to try new things with his big sister than with anyone else, including me! My husband and I continue to be intentional about encouraging their sibling relationship and helping keep it on the right track.
So today I’m sharing 20 ways to encourage good sibling relationships based on our experiences. I even talked to my kiddos for their input for this post!
1. Remind your kids that they have each other and always will.
From the time our youngest was born, we have told our kiddos they have to stick together. Reminding your children that they have a special bod in their sibling relationship is important. Friends will come and go, but siblings will be around for most of their life. And that’s a bond to celebrate and grow. After all, as we remind our kids, nobody else in the world knows what it’s like growing up with their dad and me as parents. So they can always bond over that!
2. Don’t compare your kids to each other.
I know this can be tricky. After all, our experiences as parents rest solely on our experiences with our own children. But our kids have their own strengths and weaknesses. Comparing them to one another only serves to drive a wedge between them, and that’s not at all what we want to do. It’s difficult to not resent someone who your parents are telling you is better at something than you are. With that in mind, be careful to not compare in subtle ways either. Praise and discipline as equally and fairly as possible.
3. Speak positively about their siblings to your kiddos.
A great way to encourage good sibling relationships is by saying good things about your kids to their siblings. Of course we have grouses and gripes with our kids, but focusing on those and complaining about them to their siblings is only going to weaken that relationship. Instead, mention to your daughter how funny her brother is. Or point out to your son how kind his sister is. This helps our kids learn to look for the positive attributes in one another rather than focus on the negative ones.
4. Don’t allow negative talk between them.
When it comes to positive language, don’t allow your kids to bad-mouth each other to each other or to other people. Your kids won’t always get along (mine certainly don’t), but there’s a difference between having a disagreement and being mean to each other. We don’t tolerate name-calling and putdowns in our family, including between our children. Our kids also aren’t allowed to bad-mouth their sibling to their friends or others. Doing so only hurts that sibling relationship.
One bonus we’ve found to this rule is that our kids’ friends treat the sibling kindly also. For example, the friends of my 12-year-old daughter are kind to our 9-year-old son and even say hello to him at school whenever they see him, regardless if our daughter is around.
5. Let them have a chance to work through conflicts but step in to help resolve the conflict when necessary.
Part of teaching our kids is helping them know how to work through conflict with other people. Managing sibling conflict is a great way to start, because our family should always be our safe place. But we want to make sure conflict is resolved in a positive way. Early on, my husband and I had to help our kids with resolving conflict much more often. Nowadays, however, I hear them have a disagreement and figure out a compromise without flying off the handle. There are still times we have to step in when someone is getting frustrated, but they are learning and growing. No relationship is perfect and learning how to resolve conflict in a positive way is important.
6. Create an attitude of grace throughout your home.
One of my biggest goals as a Christian mom is to create a home filled with grace, faith and love. And that attitude of grace extends throughout the entire family. We continue to work on helping our kids learn to give grace to each other (and us as well). One of the biggest ways we have done this is practicing a small attitude shift as a family in assuming the people we love are not intentionally trying to hurt us. Giving each other the benefit of the doubt goes a long way to forging better relationships.
7. Make opportunities for family fun.
The best relationships we have are those in which we have fun together. Sibling relationships are no different. Come up with ways to have fun as a family and put your kids together in fun ways. One of my kids’ favorite things right now is planning a family yes day. We pick a day and their dad and I have to say yes to whatever they ask us (with some rules). They work together to plan a fun day, and we all giggle together. Other times, it’s small ways that we have fun like having a water balloon fight, going out for ice cream as a surprise treat and playing games together.
8. Develop your own family traditions.
We often have family traditions for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but having smaller traditions is just as important. Sometimes these traditions can look like routines. For instance, each evening before bedtime, our family gathers to pray and read. Usually we read chapter books. We’ve read through the entire Harry Potter series, part of Percy Jackson and are now nearly finished with “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” from C.S. Lewis. We know that each evening, we have 15 to 20 minutes as a family that we don’t do anything else, and we love that time! These traditions and routines help our kids feel closer to each other as well as to my husband and me.
9. Pray together as a family.
That evening time we have to pray together is great for building sibling relationships as well. We don’t go for super long prayers that are highly personal and in-depth. Instead, we talk about people we know who need prayer. In joining together in prayer for someone or something, our children’s relationship only deepens and grows in ways that matter most.
10. Have dinner together at least a few nights a week.
If you can’t manage dinner together every night, then at least make it a priority a few nights a week. During the school year, we have dinner together at the table nearly every night. During the summertime, we are a little more lax and have dinner together while watching a favorite show or movie a couple of times a week. Having that time to eat and talk about what’s going on in our lives is important and helps grows our kids’ relationship. It gives them a chance to be more involved in each other’s lives and happenings. They learn more about each other and what’s important to each other.
11. Support each other’s activities and interests.
We do our best to encourage our kids to support each other’s activities and interests. If there is a school program or performance or anything else, we expect everyone to go and be supportive of the other. This past school year, for example, our daughter was a manager of the middle school track and field team. So, her dad, brother and I showed up for and even volunteered at some of the meets. While our kids go to the same school, their concerts are on different nights. We expect them to go along for their sibling’s performance and be just as excited for them. Knowing that you sibling supports you goes a long way toward bettering your sibling relationship!
12. Pray for their relationship.
We’ve got so many things to pray about for our kids, so it might be easy to overlook praying for their sibling relationships. But don’t forget that. I have prayed from the beginning that my kids have a good, strong and healthy relationship. I want them to enjoy each other and like each other, not just love each other. So I ask God for help in growing their relationship together and guiding my husband and me to raise them in a way that draws them together rather than apart.
13. Help them grow in their own relationships with God.
It’s important to help our kids grow in their own relationships with God as well. Their relationship with God impacts every part of their lives and all of their relationships. The closer they are to God and growing in Him, the more loving and caring they’ll be with everyone — including their siblings! (Don’t miss this free printable of a parents’ prayer to help you pray for yourself as you are raising your children.)
14. Watch and listen to wholesome content.
We don’t only watch and listen to Christian entertainment, but we are careful about what our kids are exposed to. Some movies and shows just aren’t appropriate for them due to bad language, inappropriate content and wrong attitudes. The more they are exposed to those things, the more normal those things seem and the more likely they are to behave differently. If we’re watching something and see siblings working against each other, we talk about it with our kids. What should the characters have done?
And I am a huge proponent of listening to Christian music. It’s hard for me to be grumpy with the kids or for them to argue with one another when praise music is playing. Sometimes if they start getting short with each other in the car, I turn up the worship songs until they can’t help but laugh and move on. It works!
15. Promote teamwork.
We’re big on family teamwork. And family teamwork includes giving our kids a chance to work together on tasks. They may grumble sometimes while cleaning their bathroom (hey, it happens!), but in the end they feel accomplished together for what they did. Having a chance to work as a team and take pride in what they do together strengthens sibling relationships.
16. Encourage playtime together.
When our children were younger, they were more inclined to play with each other because they didn’t have much choice. Nowadays, one of our kids is old enough that she’s not as into playing while the other is still at an age where he enjoys playtime. So sometimes we require them to play together. That can look like anything from pretend play to doing art together to building something together to even watching a certain series together. The goal is to make sure our kids get time to spend together in a playful way and enjoy each other’s company.
17. Protect their time together.
Speaking of spending time together enjoying one another’s company, we must protect our kids’ time together. I’m big on not over-scheduling our kids. I want my kids to have a chance to be bored and to find their own things to do. That also means we aren’t so overscheduled that they don’t have time to be with one another. Protect their time so they can have time together as well. Having time together in positive ways is an important part of building strong sibling relationships.
18. Have one-on-one time with them.
Spending time one-on-one with your kids can strengthen their bond with each other. No matter how old they are, our kids want our attention. They want to know we are listening and paying attention to them. Making sure to find ways to have one-on-one time with them helps them not be resentful of each other seeming to get more attention at different times. Our family has found a variety of ways to do this. Right now what’s working best for us is to allow each of our kids to have 20-30 minutes of one-on-one (or two-on-one) time with us after bedtime two nights a week. We read through special books or just talk during that time.
19. Travel together.
No matter how big or small the trip, traveling together is a great way to grow family bonds and strengthen sibling relationships. We have made memories on bigger trips like to Orlando, Fla., and the Grand Canyon as well as on smaller trips like camping in a nearby state park. Even day trips and staycations count. Basically any time spent out of the daily grind works!
20. Reminisce together — even the about the crazy moments!
Take time every so often to reminisce together. I love memory photos that come up on social media or through my Google Photos. I often show them to my kids as well. Showing them things we’ve done that they’ve forgotten or how they snuggled together when they were small help them feel closer. One of the fun things about family and siblings is having memories with them that nobody else in the world has. Don’t forget to help your kids remember those moments that connect them!