Sibling relationships are such unique, beautiful gifts from God. If nurtured and encouraged they can be some of the most supportive relationships we have in life. A repeated prayer of mine is that my children will have a unique bond that comes only from God. That my children will be best friends, supportive, and each other’s biggest encouragers. And that they will serve the Lord together. Here are four ways to help nurture the sibling relationship from an early age.
1. Encourage one another. Whether it’s cheering on the one who is potty training and used the potty on their own, clapping for brother’s performance as fire chief, gathering other siblings to view the massive tower built by sister, or for making the sports team, cheering on their siblings is important. It teaches them to be FOR each other. To have unity. They will have enough people in the world that will not be for them.
2. Serve one another. Serving others is a powerful biblical way of loving others. Teaching our children to serve one another helps get the focus off themselves and onto others. Have them serve each other snacks, deliver waters at mealtimes (putting themselves last), bring blankets when one is sick. Sit down with one sibling and ask, “What is something we can do for your brother today? How can we serve him?” Then have fun trying to do one or two of those things that morning. It’s good practice for the one being served too, because they get practice making eye contact and saying thank you.
3. Teach them to allow each other to belong. Typically kids go with the wrong crowd because that wrong crowd makes them feel like they belong. In all our weird, quirky ways, home should be the place where we are safest to be ourselves. It builds confidence when we are accepted as we are. My children love hearing that God has plans just for their lives that no one else can fulfill and that he made them each uniquely in order to fulfill his calling on their lives. My children are not allowed to make fun of each other, ever. They are constantly told to “encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 They don’t do this perfectly, which gives us an ample amount of time for practice. For each negative thing they say to the other, they have to say three kind things to them.
4. Create special sibling time. A few days a week my children will have “room time” where they will spend time in their rooms for individual, creative play by themselves for 45 minutes to an hour. Once in a while I will “allow” them to have room time together. They play together all day, but there is something uniquely special in their eyes of this time together. They actually get along the ENTIRE time, so I encourage that when I can. Reading together is also a time when they mostly get along the entire time. There is something about enjoying a story together. Gathering around for a read aloud book, or allowing the oldest to read to the younger ones, creates unity. When one parent takes one child, it is a great opportunity for the other children to play in a way that they don’t normally, so encourage them to play together and enjoy each other’s company. One more way to set up a time for sibling bonding time is over snack. I open a pack of bite size crackers that they all love and tell them they must share the snack while sitting down somewhere. They can choose anywhere in the house to sit, but they must share the snack. This is another time when they all get along well. They usually end up in a boat (the kitchen mat or corner of a room) giggling and making up a game.
God has given them built in friends, right in their homes. Prayer, selflessness, and encouragement can go a long way in helping them build these friendships.