Introduction

Introduction

Even if they can sometimes be explosive, brother/sister relationships can also be tender and loving.

Sibling relationships are rarely all smooth sailing: games punctuated by yelling and arguments are par for the course! But even if they can sometimes be explosive, brother/sister relationships can also be tender and loving. What can you do to prevent rivalry and jealousy to help your children develop a harmonious relationship?

Many factors influence sibling relationships, including the children’s temperaments, gender, place in the birth order and difference in age. “The fact that a child reacts to his brother or sister is perfectly normal and even healthy,” says Dr. Michel Maziade, child psychiatrist and scientific director at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec (Quebec City university mental health institute). “It’s an essential stage in identity building that allows children to learn how to share the time and love of their parents.” Conflicts between siblings are “opportunities to acquire communication techniques and to learn concepts like compromise to settle disputes,” says psychologist Nadia Gagnier. Learning this now will be very useful for children, especially later at daycare and eventually at school.

Harmony between siblings also depends on the atmosphere at home.

Even if there is rivalry and fighting between siblings, there’s often a great underlying tenderness between them,” adds Michèle Lambin, a Montreal-based social worker. One study shows that siblings between four and six years old spend twice as much time together as with their parents, and that during this time, only 30% of their interactions were associated with discord, whereas 70% were linked to bonding and getting along.