How to Help Young Siblings Bond

Having young children may lead to sibling rivalries. The siblings may fight and feel resentment instead of bonding; however, you can help foster a bond between your children. To help young siblings bond, find activities for them to do together, encourage trust between them, avoid comparing them, and help them learn how to solve conflict.


EditFinding Ways for Your Children to Bond

  1. Encourage the siblings to play together. Playing together can help your children bond at any age. There are many ways you can get them to play. Try getting them to play a game, like tag, hide and seek, or even cards or a board game. For younger children, let them play with toys that are age appropriate for the youngest child.[1]
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    • Very young siblings can play age-specific games, like peek-a-boo or patty cake.
    • If siblings are reluctant to include one another, try scheduling “sibling time” and “me time” into their playtime.
    • If your children have a battery-powered or pedal-powered car, let the younger sibling ride in the passenger side while the older sibling drives them around.
    • Simple games can help children bond if they have different interests or abilities that may impede their bonding.
  2. Encourage siblings to pretend together. Having children explore their imaginations and pretend together may help them bond. Think about what your children like to do and find a way to get all siblings involved. Pretend scenarios can help them explore their creative sides and find fun ways to play.
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    • For example, they can pretend to be kings and queens in a castle or animals in the jungle.
    • Toddlers can also join in the pretend fun. An older sibling might pretend to be the doctor while the younger siblings are the patients. Older siblings may be the cooks and servers in a restaurant and the younger siblings can be the customers.
  3. Create craft projects together. Another way your children can spend time together and bond is by doing crafts together. You can adjust the crafts for each child based on their level of development, but they can use the same materials and complete the projects together. Craft projects are a great way for siblings to spend time together no matter their age, developmental stage, or ability.
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    • For example, they can color together out of the same coloring book, or draw pictures together.
    • You can let them paint flowerpots in the spring or Christmas ornaments in the winter. If one or two siblings are too young to do it alone, let the older siblings help them.
    • Toddlers can also do craft projects with older siblings. Let them work on motor skills by drawing and coloring with crayons.
  4. Emphasize that your children are a team. Try to challenge your children in ways that require teamwork. Working together toward a common goal can help them bond while avoiding trying to compete for your affection. You can find ways for them to do chores or play together as a team, with a great reward at the end.[2]
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    • For example, make it a team game where all the siblings put up their toys before a timer goes off. Make sure they all get involved and help each other, and encourage them as they complete the task.
    • Try setting up a treasure hunt around the house and yard, using hints and clues your children will have to work together to solve.[3]
  5. Encourage trust by letting them help each other. Your children can bond by turning to each other to complete tasks instead of you or other adults. This helps older siblings feel important and protective while the younger siblings learn to trust older siblings. Because they are relying on each other, their bond will strengthen.[4]
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    • For example, if your younger children need help picking out clothes, let the older siblings help. You can say, “Ask your siblings. They’re really good at picking out shirts!” If your older children can manage it, you can then let them help the younger ones get dressed.
    • Your older children can read stories to their younger siblings, or kiss them and help calm them down if they’re having a crying fit.
  6. Provide structured activities for multiple siblings. It may be more difficult for children who have three or more siblings to bond because there are so many. However, you can help your children bond by providing them with activities they can do together. Choose activities that all children, despite ability or age, can do.[5]
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    • For example, have everyone bake cookies together, make crafts, build forts, ride bikes, or play at the park. Encourage them to play board or card games that everyone can play, like Go Fish.
    • This is important if you have groups of children who are closer. The children who are closer may play together when unsupervised. Supervising activities where your children all spend time together can help strengthen the bonds between those who are not as close.
  7. Teach kindness through example. Teaching your children the importance of family, love, and kindness will help their bonds. One of the best ways to do this is through example. You and your partner should treat each other and each child with love and kindness. This teaches your young children how families treat each other.[6]
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    • For example, instead of yelling at your children or partner, talk about things calmly and find alternate ways of conflict resolution.
    • Show kindness and thoughtfulness to everyone in your family. Encourage them to do things for each other, like bringing their sibling a sweater or blanket if they said they were cold or remembering their favorite food at the grocery store.
  8. Let older siblings hold younger siblings. When you have infants or toddlers, try to help the siblings create a bond by letting the older sibling hold the younger one. Teach the older sibling the proper way to hold and interact with their younger sibling.[7]
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    • By letting the older sibling hold the younger one, the older sibling starts to feel a connection to their new younger sibling, and the younger sibling emotionally attaches to the older sibling.
  9. Have older siblings help with baby tasks. Another way to have your older child bond with an infant or toddler sibling is by having them help take care of them. You can have the older sibling feed the baby, change the diaper, change their clothes, or help during bath time.[8]
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    • If the older sibling is too young to do any of this on their own, have them help you as you take care of the baby.
    • Make sure to teach the older sibling how to properly take care of the baby so the younger sibling won’t get hurt.

EditResolving Conflicts

  1. Teach conflict resolution. Your children will fight, and teaching them how to resolve conflict themselves can help them have a better relationship. Start by setting limits, and then teach alternate ways of responding instead of physical violence.[9]
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    • For example, if one child hits another, you may say, “I understand you hit your sibling because they took your toy. Do not hit. Hitting hurts. Instead, use your words. Tell them to give your toy back and to ask if they want to play with it.”
  2. Try letting the siblings work out conflict. Though you may want to step in every time they are arguing, you should try to let your children work out conflict on their own. Watch over them to make sure one sibling is not being mean to the others or they are not hurting each other, but try not to interfere.[10]
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    • Infants and toddlers should be allowed to work things out with their siblings. This helps teach them how to handle conflict in the future and learn how to approach conflict with others.
    • Encourage the kids to come up with solutions. You may say, “Though you are arguing, I know you can come with a positive solution that works for all of you.”
    • When you get involved, try not to pick sides. This can cause resentment. Instead, treat all your children fairly.
  3. Intervene when necessary. Children can sometimes become violent or upset when they have a conflict with a sibling. They may bite, hit, kick, yell, or scream. When your children do these things, you should intervene. Let all the siblings know that violent and negative behavior will not be tolerated.[11]
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    • For example, you may step between your toddler and five year old who are hitting each other. You may have to take their hands and say, “You do not hit your sibling.”
  4. Avoid taking sides. When you mediate between your children, make sure not to take sides. This does not emphasize the bond between them, but can instead hurt the bond. Taking on child’s side can cause resentment to build between them. Instead, stay neutral.[12]
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    • When you are mediating, make sure to acknowledge all of your children and their sides or points.
  5. Allow the children to spend time apart. No siblings should be around each other all the time. Let them spend time with other children or adults, or let them play alone. This helps give them space so they’re not getting tired of each other and on each other’s nerves.[13]
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    • Spend time with each child alone. Do something each child would like to do when it’s just the two of you. This can help your children not feel jealous of the other siblings.
    • Plan group play activities with other children so that your kids can socialize with kids other than their siblings.

EditEncouraging Family Bonding

  1. Schedule family activities. Another way for your children to bond is when your family bonds together. Come up with ways for your family to spend time together. This can be a weekly tradition or something fun you do once each year. This helps your children create shared memories.[14]
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    • This may be a weekly pizza and movie night, baking cookies on weekends, or going to the park.
    • Plan fun outings for your kids where they can do things together. For example, let them go on rides together at an amusement park. Look for a children’s museum in your area, or a children’s climbing gym or obstacle course.
    • Try to choose something that may involve a challenge, like camping or hiking, in which your children must work together.
    • You can do this even if you have an infant or toddler. Take all the kids to the pool or beach and encourage your older child to play with water toys while the infant floats safely near them.
  2. Play kids versus parents games. Instead of letting your children compete against each other, let them compete against you and your partner. Having the children team up together to defeat the parents can help them work together and bond.[15]
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    • For example, you can play hide and seek, a board game, tag, or even a water fight.
  3. Avoid comparing your children. One of the fastest ways to foster resentment is by comparing your children. Remember that your children are different people who do things differently and have different likes. Try not to take sides and don’t pick a favorite.[16]
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    • Try not to say things like, “Your brother never…” or “Your sister always…” You should also avoid saying, “Why can’t you be more like your sibling?”

EditSetting Boundaries

  1. Keep age-appropriate boundaries. Though spending time together is important for siblings, the age difference means there are some things the older siblings can do that the younger ones can’t. Avoid letting your younger children do everything the older ones do if it is not age-appropriate.[17]
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    • For example, don’t let younger siblings play with dangerous toys or ride on bikes that are too large for them. They should also not be allowed to stay up late with their siblings, or allowed to watch everything their older sibling might be able to.
    • Remember, too, that your older child is still a child, not a babysitter or caretaker. If they are constantly forced to play with or watch their younger siblings, they may develop resentment. Make sure you are giving your older child time to be a kid and play with children their own age.
  2. Allow the children to have their own possessions. While sharing is important, you may want to let the children have certain toys or items that are only for them. This means they are off-limits to their siblings. This can help them have independence and feel like they have their own space and things. Making sure all siblings respect this can help reduce resentment.[18]
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    • For example, your children may have a favorite stuffed animal, doll, car, action figure, blanket, or pillow that they do not want to share. That is okay. Make sure the siblings know which items are off limits.
    • You may want to give each child a box with their name on it where they can put their special toys.
  3. Teach appropriate behavior. Rivalry often occurs in siblings when a younger child’s inappropriate behavior is overlooked. This can cause bad feelings, especially if the older children get in trouble. To avoid this, teach all your children appropriate behavior. Help your younger children know when they are inappropriate and show them the proper behavior.[19]
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    • For example, you can help the younger child not grab their sibling’s toys. When you see them snatch a doll or block, mildly correct your child.
    • You may say, “We must take turns with toys. Your sibling is playing with that doll right now, and you can’t grab it when they play with it. Instead, if you’re patient, polite, and wait your turn, you can play with it when they’re done.”

EditSources and Citations

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