Our Longest Relationship & Our Happiness
Think for a moment. With whom will you have the longest relationship during your life? No, not our parents—they pass away before becoming the ones to know us the longest. Not even your spouse—we didn’t meet them until we became adults. It’s our siblings. Our siblings know us as children, adolescents, single adults, married adults, and possibly even widowed adults. They know us, and we have known them, for a lifetime. Even more, sibling relationships, beginning in childhood, form a training ground of sorts for learning about all kinds of other relationships in our lives. Is it any wonder, then, that our sibling relationships can make us happier or sadder?
With that in mind, we want to promote positive relationships among siblings when they are children. We want to help our children establish sibling relationships as children that will provide a lifetime of support, encouragement, and guidance. As parents, how can we do that?
- Keep your marriage strong. A strong, healthy marriage creates a secure, loving home. When children see their parents in a healthy relationship, they feel safer. They feel greater love and less fear of loss. They can also model their relationship with their siblings after the healthy relationships they see between their parents. Keep your marriage strong.
- Avoid favoritism. Each child has unique strengths and interests as well as unique needs and personalities. Love each one. Spend time with each child. Discover their strengths and nurture them. Encourage and support each child in their endeavors. Of course, many children believe “my little brother/sister gets away with everything” and “my older brother/sister gets to do more than me.” I haven’t discovered a way to avoid that perception. In spite of that misperception, you can love your children equally.
- Promote family activities. Create opportunities for your family to have fun together. Share ideas, stories, and dreams as you share family meals together. Enjoy family vacations. Schedule fun family outings. Family activities are a wonderful time to develop sibling relationships and to let the whole family express love for one another.
- Encourage your children to support one another but also allow them to have their individual lives. This is a bit of a balancing act. It is important for each person to have the opportunity to pursue their individual interests and strengths, their own lives. And it is important for each person to encourage one another in their pursuit of their personal interests. Model doing both in your marriage and in your relationship with your children.
- Give your children time to resolve their own disagreements. Sibling disagreements and arguments teach our children important skills. Before stepping in, give them time to work things out on their own.
These four practices will lay the groundwork for sibling relationships that focus on encouraging and supporting one another for a lifetime. They will help your children develop sibling relationships that can bring joy, comfort, and happiness to one another for a lifetime.
But what if you are an adult…how can you continue to nurture a positive relationship with your sibling? And what if you do not have a positive relationship with your sibling? How can you develop a closer relationship with your sibling? Stay tuned for our next blog to get some answers to these questions and more.