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12 Tips to Help Your Kids Create Loving Relationships With One Another That Will Last a Lifetime

12 Tips to Help Your Kids Create Loving Relationships With One Another That Will Last a Lifetime

My parents have been married for over 40 years. They have six children together, and although all these children have grown up to be very different individuals, they have great bonds and friendships even into adulthood. My parents did so much to help facilitate love, respect, and positive relationships among all six of us.

I love my sibilings and I am grateful for them. My parents taught us to get along as kids, so that we could get along as adults and lean on one another during difficult times.

Now that I am raising three children with my husband I want my children to have the same type of bond that I developed with my own sibilings. Having a doctorate in psychology, I am always analyzing behavior according to what works and perhaps what doesn’t. I am committed to helping my children develop positive relationships with one another that will last a lifetime.

I recognize those relationship skills begin now and are learned in childhood. We can verbally teach our kids positive relationship skills, but we also model these skills through our own behaviors with others, especially with our spouse or partner. Below are my top 12 tips for facilitating loving relationships among siblings during childhood, so that these loving relationships will last a lifetime.

1. Teach your children the art of apologizing.

Teaching children to apologize and to do so effectively is a skill that can help them become successful adults. There are several components involved in a sincere apology. These components involve not making excuses, accepting their responsibility in the situation, voicing a sincere apology, and making the situation right again. Not making excuses means they don’t try to excuse their behavior or reaction.

For example, when a sibling hits another sibling and tries to justify their hit because their sibling stole their toy or hit them first, they are making excuses. They need to own their part of the conflict without excuses. This means verbalizing an apology that doesn’t have anything attached to it.

Inappropriate apology: “I am sorry I hit you, but you took my toys from my room.”

Appropriate apology: “I am sorry for hitting you.”

If there is a way the child can make the situation right, the parent can help point those things out. For example, if a child broke one of their sibling’s toys, then the child that broke the toy can apologize and also offer to use their allowance to pay to replace the broken toy. If they don’t offer, then it can simply be a part of their punishment, as a consequence for breaking the toy.

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A parent can even add to that punishment because the child refused to offer to compensate for the broken toy on their own free will. It’s all about consequences and making sure the child understands those consequences and how they got to where they are in the situation. It was because of the choices the child made.

2. Teach your children the art of forgiveness.

Research by Cohen shows that there are emotional and physical implications when someone chooses to not forgive. A noteworthy quote from this research article: “The emotional and physiological data suggest that a sustained pattern of unforgiveness over time could result in poorer health because of the negative psychophysiological states that accompany unforgiveness.” Teaching children how to appropriately forgive can help them live more emotionally and physically healthy.

Parents need to teach their children that forgiveness is an action. It starts with the words “I forgive you.” It’s OK to let the child know that hard feelings may still be there, but time will mend things if they have a heart of forgiveness. Having a heart of forgiveness means they give empathy toward the offender. It also makes the assumption that the offender is good and did not intend actual harm, because their actions were done out of heightened emotions or accidentally.

Forgiveness can be complicated sometimes, so simply teaching your children to say “I forgive you” and then hug one another is a step in the right direction. Saying “I don’t forgive you” should not be allowed among siblings. It will begin the process of harboring resentment and grudges and no good parent wants that for their children.

3. Have them help one another.

Having siblings help one another for the small things in life will hopefully lead to them helping one another with the big things in life when it really matters. They can help each other from early ages too. Siblings who are slightly older can help with some of the basic care of the younger ones, such as assisting parents with dressing, feeding, and cleaning younger siblings who need help doing those tasks. They can also do fun things for one another, such as read stories or sing songs to one another at bed time.

My daughter sings to her younger twin brothers at bedtime, and it is a sweet time that I hope they remember as adults. It is important that they see one another as helpers to each other or more importantly, they view their sibling relationship as a team working together.

Try to recognize the opportunities where they can help one another, as you want these positive interactions to outweigh the conflict that so inevitably happens between siblings. When parents take the time to create opportunities for positive interactions, such as though having siblings help one another through daily tasks, then the sibling bond becomes stronger and interactions becomes more positively focused.

4. Have them say “I love you” daily.

I once heard a Mom say “well, I don’t make my children say I love you to one another; I want them to do it on their own free will.” That sentiment is very nice; however we as parents, must teach our children how to behave and interact with one another. I would love for my children to voluntarily wake up every morning and make their bed on their own free will, but it isn’t going to happen.

We teach our children what is good and appropriate behavior. Teaching them to say “I love you” when appropriate, such as going off to school or going to bed at night, is showing them it’s good to verbalize affection toward one another. Doing this with your spouse is good modeling of this behavior as well. You want your child to be able to express love for others as adults, so help them do so with their siblings today.

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5. The expression of physical affection is taught.

Once again, physical affection, much like verbal affection is taught. There are some kids who would never hug if it wasn’t taught to them. Every child is different, but they need to see that physical affection such as hugging, holding hands, and other appropriate physical affection is good between siblings. In our home, when there is an apology that takes place, it is followed up with a hug.

Physical affection is very important because research by News in Health shows that physical affection such as hugs releases positive hormones called oxytocin. Some important information was noted in this article, something all parents should know: “One thing researchers can say with certainty is that physical contact affects oxytocin levels. Light says that the people who get lots of hugs and other warm contact at home tend to have the highest levels of oxytocin in the laboratory”.

Hugs and physical affection at home affects our level of oxytocin, which affects our levels of happiness. Kids need hugs and appropriate physical affection from Mom, Dad, and siblings.

6. Siblings need time together outside of their parents.

If parents are always facilitating the interactions between siblings and are always with siblings in order for them to interact together, then a bond between siblings outside of their parents cannot occur. Kids need time to play together and spend time together during the day outside of their parents.

If your schedule is too packed and the kids don’t have that time to spend together, it is at the detriment of their current and future relationship as siblings. Cut back on outside activities to ensure that siblings get time together to play, learn, and grow together. Preferably without a parent hovering over them in a manner which inhibits their natural interactions.

7. Don’t create a competitive atmosphere.

Don’t create a competitive atmosphere among siblings by comparing their abilities or pitting them against one another. Remember, you want them to get along together, as a team, not be against one another. Saying things like “why can’t you be more like Sally” or “clean your room like Johnny cleans his — why can’t you be like him?” Those sort of statements pit children against one another and make the children resentful of their siblings.

Instead, praise children for their individual abilities and skills. Try to keep the praise as equal as possible. I recognize that sometimes this is not easy and some days are better than others. It is important as a parent to TRY to make things fair and equal in regard to praise and affirmations.

You may not be able to praise them for the same things, and that is OK, as all children are different and are born with individual abilities and talents. Parents need to recognize the individual and at the same time — not compare them to their siblings. It only creates hard feelings between siblings when comparisons are made.

8. Model kindness and respect.

A parent sets the standard for how people are to treat one another in the home. Much of this is done through modeling, whether we like it or not. This is why it is so important for parents to treat one another with respect and kindness.

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This means being nice to one another by helping each other and speaking with kind tones and words on a regular basis. Kids are watching how you treat your spouse and others, so be a good example for them. If you are sarcastic and rude to your spouse, then don’t be surprised when your kids act that way to one another.

It is hard enough to teach good behavior. If our modeling undermines what we are teaching them verbally, then we are spinning our wheels.

9. Create family memories they can carry into adulthood.

Spend time as a family doing fun things that facilitate positive interactions and memories. It can be as simple as playing board games, going to a water park, or doing a family vacation. Making an effort to create memories that your children can reminisce about as adults is important.

They won’t want to revisit the hardships, the bickering, and the fights, as those are not pleasant memories to revisit. Instead, be sure the family is creating memories that are worth revisiting. If life is all work and no play, the kids suffer, as do their memories of childhood.

Take the time to cherish their childhood, as it is fleeting. The memories they make will last a lifetime, so make sure there are plenty of positive ones. Take lots of photos, so you have proof of those good time. A photo is worth a thousand words, so take photos when positive family times happen.

10. Help them learn conflict-resolution skills.

Sibling conflict is inevitable, but it is also something parents should be concerned about. Research by Howe & Recchia found a correlation between severe conflict in sibling relationships during childhood and maladjustment in adulthood. For example, one finding cited by Howe & Recchia was that “extreme levels of childhood sibling conflict are related to later violent tendencies as adults.”

It is important that there are rules in place in a household first; the next step is helping children resolve their conflicts through some parental mediation. I have a good example of this recently in our home: two of the kids were fighting over a toy. In our home, if toys are fought over, they are taken away. We call it toy time out.

In this particular instance, I warned the kids that they had one minute to decide how to share the toy and stop arguing, or the toy would be taken away. Sure enough, my daughter told her brother he could have it first, and then she would play with it in a few minutes when he was done. The argument ceased between them without me having to even go into the room.

The key to making this work is to follow through every time. If they hadn’t come to an agreement within a minute, I knew I had to follow through and take away the toy. Not following through would otherwise mean to them that my threats are meaningless, and they don’t have to actually problem-solve anything together because there aren’t consequences. Finding the teachable moments to help moderate conflict-resolution skills is helpful to children learning to implement these skills on their own in the future.

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Conflict resolution doesn’t have to be complicated. It is simply finding a solution that works for both parties by having both people understand the other person’s perspective. Kids can learn to do this with some guidance and mediation from their parents.

11. Help them see the good and positive in one another.

Teaching your children to give their siblings the benefit of the doubt can help them go a long way in developing a positive relationship. Help your kids see that they don’t mean to harm one another, meaning they give them the benefit of the doubt in situations when one child feels wronged by the other.

For example, if Suzy pushes her brother down because they are playing tag and it got too rough, then the parent can help the situation by asking Suzy if she intended to push her brother to hurt him. Of course she will say no, and the parent can give the opportunity for her to explain that it wasn’t done on purpose, and that it was indeed an accident.

Going through this type of scenario from time to time helps you show your kids that they don’t intend actual harm to one another. Accidents happen and sometimes emotions get too high as well. Helping them recognize their siblings are indeed good human beings and not out to get them is a great thing a parent can do for their kids.

12. Let them know how lucky they are to have one another.

Not every child gets a sibling. Let children know that they are lucky to have their siblings. They have a special bond and place in the world because they do have siblings. For many people their sibling relationships are the longest lasting relationships they will have in their lifetime. Help them start it out on the right foot by teaching them how to have good and healthy sibling relationship during childhood.

References:

Cohen, Andy (2004). Research on the Science of Forgiveness: An Annotated Bibliography. Whttp://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_of_forgiveness_an_annotated_bibliography

Howe, N. & Recchia, H. (2004). Sibling Relations and Their Impact on Children’s Development. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_science_of_forgiveness_an_annotated_bibliography

News in Health (2007). The Power of Love: Hugs and Cuddles Have Long-Term Effects. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2007/february/docs/01features_01.htm

Featured photo credit: Having fun on #AmericasBestBeaches by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via flickr.com

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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