The great thing about having a sibling, whether older or younger, is always having someone to talk to, play sports with and learn from. Younger siblings have someone to look up to as a role model, while older siblings have the opportunity to pass down knowledge from their experiences to their younger brothers and sisters.
However, it’s also important for parents to be aware of some of the potentially not-so-positive influences that siblings can have on each other. For example, an older sibling’s actions and experiences may set a standard for younger siblings. While this is somewhat common, parents should try not to let one child dictate expectations for their other children – especially during adolescence.
Here are a few things to remember as a parent of more than one child:
- Encourage activities that make sense for each child: Just because your older son enjoyed being in band or orchestra during high school doesn’t mean your younger daughter will enjoy it as well. This isn’t to say that she won’t like it; rather, it’s important to allow each of your kids to be themselves instead of trying to shape them to be exactly like their older or younger sibling.
- Communication is key: If your son or daughter went through a positive or negative experience in which they learned an important lesson, make it a learning opportunity for all of your kids. Sit down and share this lesson over dinner or in the car when everyone is together. You never know if another one of your kids may come across a similar situation in the future, and this way, everybody can be better prepared to handle obstacles that may arise.
- Family time and friend time: It’s only natural for siblings to want to hang out with their separate friend groups. As your children grow older, make sure there is a balance of both friend time and family time. Suggest that your children go see a movie, grab some frozen yogurt or go on a hike together. Even though these are simple activities, they can help your kids maintain a strong sibling relationship.
In a nutshell, as a parent you should aim to encourage healthy and loving relationships between your children while simultaneously acknowledging each child’s unique differences and needs.
Christy is a mother of two, an author and a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org. Christy is also a drug awareness advocate, passionately working to educate other parents about risky teen behaviors such as over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.