Nothing strikes fear into the heart of parents like the looming teen years of sibling rivalry. The only thing worse than one teenager in the house is more than one. Yet those years don’t come like a surprise in the night. Yes it’s true that one day our kids seem totally normal and loving and the next appear to have morphed into something unrecognizable. But the truth is parents know it is coming. The teen years are inevitable.
So how can parents help navigate those crazy years? More specifically, how can parents help teens navigate the relationships with their own siblings? There are no easy answers. Much has been written about preserving teen sibling relationships and one theme stands out among the others: prevention. That is, helping children have good relationships ahead of entering the teen years.
Complimenting vs. Tattling
On this topic, parent authors tried to get their children to understand the difference between lifting up their sibling with words that were encouraging and helpful versus telling the parent about their every wrong move. Teens are trying to figure out their way through the maze of new feelings and thoughts and a changing body. Instead of having a sibling who is always calling them out on what they are doing wrong, consider telling them what they are doing right. That positive encouragement could help them find their way.
Although to many adults it may seem that the teen years are when they are finally freed up to focus more on work, the opposite is really true. These years are when teens need their parents the most. Of course they will not admit that, but it is very important that parents are around and available during these years. Teens need to know that they can talk to their parents about anything at just about any time. Hopefully you have fostered that kind of relationship in the years leading up to teen-hood. And if you have, now is when it truly pays off. The kid who has an open relationship with a trusted adult is bound to trust that adult when new questions and situations come their way.
As a parent, it is important to continue making time for one-on-one interaction with each of your children, even the teens. Now may be the time to try something new to continue the relationship while lessening the pressure on your kid to spill her guts. Continuing to enjoy a hobby together is a great way to make space for talking while doing something else.
With multiple teens in the house, this is as important as ever. Hopefully you have cultivated a solid foundation of family time and memories as the children have grown. But even with teens, it’s important to continue this tradition. It could be that your once-eager child now appears bored and way too cool for family time. But that’s ok. Do it anyway. Your child needs that solid foundation in his world that is changing daily. With more than one teen, it’s important to remind them of their long association and friendship as siblings and the fact that their relationship will continue forever.
One way to combine this idea with complimenting is to go around your dinner table at night and have each family member say something kind about each of the other family members. This builds family unity and good feelings towards each other.
Don’t get discouraged. Keep doing what you have been doing to encourage your children to interact with and love one another. Family is what keeps us together as we navigate the changes in this crazy life.