I have one sister and who is nearly 5 years younger than me. Though we’re not super close in age, we’ve always been fairly close to each other, even through different seasons of life. So I knew before even having kids that that was something I wanted to do all I could to foster close sibling relationships in my own kids, too.
Fast forward to 5 kiddos ages 10 and under and almost nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids be friends with each other. I am just so darn grateful they have each other to rely on and to laugh with.
Here are 4 things that have really helped my kids strengthen those sibling relationships!
1. Work or Do Hard Things Together
There’s something about putting in effort together that really builds friendship (or maybe solidarity? 😜). Whenever my kids do chores together or work on a project together or even work on a mutual difficult activity together (like going to orchestra practice), they seem to bond.
They learn to rely on each other and trust each other to pull their weight, and it’s really special to see. They learn to communicate about how to divide up responsibilities or about how to do things together. It often means lots of time to chat. Plus, nothing unîtes people like a common enemy, and sometimes if it’s work they don’t want to do, we parents are exactly that!
2. Create Together
On the flip side, unstructured play is also super important! I of course don’t want all their memories together to be of doing hard things.
While it’s wonderful when my kids can accomplish specific tasks together, having time to dream and be creative together is really special. I love seeing their minds expand as they create Magna Tile or LEGO worlds, or when they cut out random pieces of plastic to make stuffed animal parachutes (and swords 😏).
There’s something about open-ended play that allows them to see each other’s creativity and insights and rely on each other in a whole new way. It’s fun to have fun! And play creates so many neural connections, not just inside themselves, but with each other. They’re literally building connected brain pathways and it is beautiful to see.
3. Adventure Together
Some of my most salient family memories, and the times my sister and I were closest, came through travel. That’s also true for my husband and his 4 siblings. Being in novel places and situations (sometimes uncomfortable) is just so valuable for relying on and trusting each other. It also creates time and space to just talk and imagine without the distractions of everyday life, fighting over toys, and taking care of normal responsibilities.
But this is also something that can easily happen without leaving your city! One year when my husband’s mom lost her job, their family did a staycation in their city. They adventured every day to new parks and hikes and activities. Some of them cost money (like museums), but most of them were free. They packed their own sandwiches and sometimes took the bus. It was very low-cost but one of his favorite family “trips” because they found so many nearby gems and they had so much time with each other. In some ways, it was even better than a trip to somewhere else because there was none of the stress of packing and travel and they just got to build memories together.
4. Create Traditions
There’s nothing like a good strong tradition to remind me of home and my sister. They’re the things that only we remember, possibly even more than our parents. And we especially love the ones we helped create!
My kids are now the same. As they’ve gotten older, they love helping DO the traditions instead of just benefitting from them. Once October 1st hits, they love putting out all the Halloween books and decorations. They look forward to helping with a couple of specific Thanksgiving dishes that they’re in charge of. They have certain songs they play on the speakers while we clean up dinner.
I love how traditions create family connections and are really most fun when done together. And they don’t need to be elaborate! One of my husband’s family traditions was making pistachio Jell-O pudding – super simple but something they all loved and got to enjoy together!
5. Have Separate Interests
As wonderful as it is to do fun things together, it’s been so good for my kids to also be able to pursue individual interests. It helps them (and us!) to recognize them as their own little people who aren’t just part of a sibling group. It lets them practice being happy for each other in their own pursuits and recognize that everyone has their turn for attention and support. Plus, it lets them get a break from each other! The old saying of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” can definitely be true for periods of time with sibling relationships.
Plus, having their own activities helps them not resent being thrown into the same stuff all together. I helps them know we love THEM instead of just a generic love for all our children. And it allows them to celebrate each other as individuals, too.
Those are just a few things that have helped my kids be close to each other as siblings. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s up to THEM whether they choose to put in the effort to be close now and when they’re adults, but I sure hope these things help. I’d love to hear some tips that have been great for your family, too!
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