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Friday, July 6, 2012

Siblings

From the start, Essie has been so sweet to Belalu. J would describe him as a "mama's boy," and he was nursing up until two months before Belalu was born. The only reason he weaned then was because my pregnant body couldn't take it anymore, but we joke that when B is weaned, E will likely say "Hey, since she's done, can I get back on that?" Given his very strong attachment to me, we were worried about the effect of another sibling entering the picture. However, he's been an amazing, loving big brother all along.

I am very mindful of their relationship and try to foster one of loving kindness between them. I think parents often unintentionally complicate sibling relationships by promoting competitiveness and/or pigeonholing children into divisive categories that can stick with them well into adulthood and beyond the family dynamic.
Even now, I often tell Essie that his job as a big brother is to protect and take care of his sister. When she's old enough to understand, I will say the same thing to Belalu. I'm using "protect" beyond the physical meaning. I want them to consider themselves responsible for the other (as much as anyone can be). Just as we take care of and love them unconditionally, I expect them to do the same for each other.

I would love to know what other families do to promote a healthy relationship between siblings. It'd be great to hear other ideas/ techniques/ experiences.


5 comments:

  1. I am trying to think of what we do with our kids to encourage bonding... I think our biggest thing is to let them sort things out among themselves for the most part, not to referee all the time. To give them all the individual attention they strive is my big thing... To do lots of low cost fun things, rather than buy plastic toys and watch TV... They are 5 and 3 and love to fight with each other, but also recently decided to move to the spare room to share a double bed... fine by us :-)

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    2. That is so sweet that they wanted to share a bed! I have great memories of giggling and talking into the night with my sis in our bunk beds.

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  2. Sorry I am messing up your comments. And with such a long response.

    Your kids have such tenderness towards each other. I'm sure their bond will continue to strengthen. There are few things that make me happier than seeing my kids relationship grow.

    My kids do nearly everything together, all parts of the day's routines, snack, books. They are each other's play mate when we are busy washing dishes, etc. They have also learned to yell the word "space" when they want some alone time, and we help reinforce those requests.

    We tell them how much we like it when they are being kind to each other. And say things to the kids like, "Aren't you glad you have such a great brother/sister." We help G help his sister. If we build up one child and give them a lot of attention, we make sure we build up the other child too. "Your sister is learning so much because you are teaching her!"

    We do silly things the kids love, like when we read blueberries for Sal instead of Little Sal and Little Bear, we say Little Gedion and Little Eomji.

    G just got a new yellow watch and so did little sister. We try not to buy a lot of things for our kids but they do have a few things that they each have, and they get a big kick out of both using their fishing pole together, or back pack, or water squirters. But they have to share everything that we didn't specifically buy two of and make a big deal out of them both having.

    We don't pick favorites in tussles. When we rarely do it sends the other into such a tailspin and we have to reaffirm that child so much.

    We talk to Gedion about who else has a little sister and how Eomji is his sister. Eomji picked Gedion up at preschool with me and they loved that reunion. We say to Eomji, "Who is the sister?"

    The kids share a room.

    When Eomji wanted to call G stinky for a couple of days, he would get so hurt and mad. We made a big deal about how we especially don't say unkind things to family. How family always has to be kind to each other no matter what. How Gedion is her brother and he will always love her and how we treat everyone kind in our family. Every one should feel safe and loved with their family. It all went over her head, but Gedion seemed to really get it. He would cry out, "We don't talk like that to people in our family!" We do some contracting talk about "Other people..., our family..." A little harmless in group/out group psychology that is effective for strengthening cohesion.

    We haven't talked to Gedion about protecting his sister, but he has those instincts. Another child pushed her and he started charging that other child. I do hope they know about protecting each other in the bigger sense you speak of. Loving and taking care of each other unconditionally forever.

    And last but not least I try to be kind and loving to my children even when I am exhausted because I hope they will reflect it back to each other. When I am irritable, our whole family falls apart. And if I am so exhausted that I can't be kind, I try really hard to get rested and recharged.

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    1. Thanks for your great tips, Kate. I especially need to work on those last ones. You are such a role model for me- both as a mom and as a knowledgeable, creative woman. I hope as they get older, E and S have such a great relationship as G and E do.

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