Dr. Kristin Schaefer-Schiumo| Manhasset NY

How to Squash Sibling Rivalry This Summer...And Beyond

August is here and with it the "dog days" of summer. Are your children getting a bit restless, with the level of bickering and taunting going up along with the heat and humidity? Instead of feeling pushed to the limit, try some simple mindful awareness strategies with your children to restore balance and calm to your family.

  1. Give opportunities for problem solving whenever you can.
  2. Ideally, you want to do this before tempers flair. Let's say one child wants pizza for lunch and the other Mexican food. Gently tell them they have to negotiate and agree on the place/type of food before everyone can have this family time together. What you will likely find is that the pull to go out is stronger than the pull to argue.

  3. Help identify your child's feelings wherever you can.
  4. For example, you may say, "I know you're feeling angry because your sister took your toy without asking." Or, "I know you're hurt because your brother didn't include you in his walk to town." Helping children identify their feelings in words decreases powerful emotions. This leaves room to help them develop healthier, more effective communication and problem solving skills.

  5. Help your children learn that life is not always fair (identical).
  6. How often have you heard your child say, "That's not fair!?" Let them know that fair does not mean identical. If your daughter needs a new winter coat, but your son needs shoes, then just purchase her the coat and him the shoes! Teach them early on that you are here for them, present to meet their physical, emotional and spiritual needs. But you are not here to monitor or tally score cards with the goal of identical material provision.

  7. Be careful not to compare.
  8. Comparing your children only leads to anger, self-doubt and resentment, while focusing on the behavior clearly states expectations and increases children's sense of self-control. Instead of saying, "you don't eat as well as your brother," try,"I'm concerned that you will be hungry later tonight."

  9. Let your children be on the same team whenever possible.
  10. Having your children on opposing teams and competing with each other can increase a sense of separateness and irritation. Instead, provide your children with the opportunities to work together and point out, when possible, how well it went.

  11. Forget about figuring out who started it, as most of the time it's near impossible!
  12. Holding one child accountable often leads the other to seek revenge. Again, focus on the behavior. For example, "I see two brothers using hurtful language." Then, if your children remain unable to control themselves, send them somewhere else. If they insist on continuing to yell or argue, insist that you will not listen to it.

  13. When you need to discipline one child, do it privately.
  14. This prevents your child from being shamed or badgered by a sibling as being "stupid" "annoying" or "bad." Be sure to remind all of your children that we all make, and learn, from our mistakes.

  15. Remember to carve out time to create weekly family traditions.
  16. Whether going for a walk, playing board games, or having an at home movie night, foster a sense of togetherness and connection among your children and your family as a whole. Enjoy your August!