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How Do We Raise Close Siblings?

Photograph by Getty Images

I’m watching my little girl and her big brother playing. Upstairs, they’ve built a fort out of every pillow they could find. Now, they’ve moved downstairs to see what other fort building materials they can find. “Fun time!” the big one yells. The little girl tears after him calling for him to wait. She starts to cry, unable to keep up. He stops and waits. And in a rare moment of unbridled kindness from a 6-year-old, he pats her on the head and says, “It’s okay. I’ll always wait for you.”

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My heart melts as the two tell each other, “You’re my best friend,” then continue playing together for hours on end. But as sweet as this moment is, I know there’s a good chance it won’t last. It’s easy to be best buddies when you’re little, but what about high school or beyond? How can I guarantee my kids will always be friends?

I chat with a few mom friends asking the question: how can we guarantee our kids grow up close to their siblings? After all, most of us had more than one kid so our kids would have each other, in childhood and as adults. And truth be told, I can’t name one of my friends who is close to their siblings. I can’t imagine my kids not seeing one another or barely talking. Yet, I haven’t caught up with my own siblings for months. I’d hate for my kids to grow up the same.

With little in common, they drifted apart.

“My siblings and I are just really different,” one friend confesses with everyone else agreeing. A few friends admit to family rifts or fights, but overall most of the friends with whom I chat feel different from their siblings. With little in common, they drifted apart.

Only one friend offers an optimistic other side of the story. “I’m close to my sister,” she says. “She’s my best friend.” Despite being very different than her sister, she admits they’ve always remained close and consider each other their closest confidante. This gives me hope.

So what made the difference?

The friends who were close to their siblings recall a childhood free of sibling rivalry. How? Their parents never compared them. Each child was treated equally and different. Accomplishments were never diminished to make the other siblings feel better about their own. And across the board, friends admitted that their parents encouraged the siblings to work out their own problems without mom’s intervention.

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These all sounds like good rules to live by. After all, who wants to grow up being compared to someone else? Likewise if a kid does something great, their effort should be acknowledged, rather than minimized for the sake of others. Hopefully, my kids will grow up knowing they always have someone in their corner, their sibling. There’s no guarantee, but it’s worth a shot.

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