Family

12 Little Ways To Ensure Your Kids WIll Grow Up To Be Best Friends

Photo: kate_sept2004 | Canva
Siblings playing together

The relationship with your brother or sister is among the longest relationships you'll ever have, usually longer than the bonds with your parents, spouse, or best friends. This relationship between siblings is so crucial that National Siblings Day was created to honor our brothers and sisters.

In addition to helping your kids become friends with one another, the skills kids learn while developing relationships with their siblings help them in other friendships and even jobs and romantic relationships when they're older. 

RELATED: Siblings Or BFFs? 5 Ways To Help Your Kids Become Both

Here are 12 ways to help your kids become friends (and stay that way!)

1. Don’t compare your children to one another.

Whether in positive or negative ways, comparisons foster division, and conflict between them can have negative lasting effects. Instead, encourage their differences. Not only will this make them more adaptive adults, it will help them learn from each other and celebrate their uniqueness by seeing the value in people who think or behave differently from themselves.

This can be done within and outside of your home. The simple act of tolerance, acceptance, and embracing everyone’s unique gifts and qualities will set the tone within your home that differences are often a good thing. Varying interests do not need to be fought against but accepted and celebrated.

   

   

2. Make “kindness counts” a mantra in your home.

Check in on acts of kindness as much as grades. Make a point to ask each child at dinner or in car rides what was something kind they did to their sibling. Let them know being kind to one another is as high a value as grades or sports in your home.

3. Create opportunities for teamwork instead of rivalry.

As a parent, this could be as simple as replacing phrases like, “Whoever cleans their room first gets to pick the movie…” Instead, say, “Help each other clean up, and then we will all decide what movie to watch tonight….”

   

   

4. Help your kids resolve problems in a clear, productive way.

Explain what you are doing and why you advise them in certain ways. It lays the foundation for problem-solving skills they can apply when they are alone or older and need to figure out a solution. If you tend to come in and quickly solve it for them with no explanation, your kids have missed out on a lifelong learning opportunity. And when you want them to “figure it out on their own,” explain why. Otherwise, the process seems chaotic and unpredictable.

5. Make it clear respect and kindness are values in your family.

Though you may think this seems obvious, kids often report it is not overtly stated or miss the message.

6. Build in 1:1 time for each child throughout the week.

Siblings fight so much because they are trying to get their parents’ attention by spending time with them regularly, they get affirmation they are loved, valued, and celebrated. It can be 10 minutes each time a few days a week. You might also try having special "parent-child" dates or rituals like getting ice cream after your oldest child's soccer match.

 family sitting on sofa laughing together

Photo: Ground Picture via Shutterstock

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7. Use humor in resolving conflict or diffusing tension.

This approach typically works and also models another way of handling situations instead of every conflict needing to be talked about.

8. If you have a sibling, show your kids how important they are to you.

Talk about your memories, your fights, and the love between you all. It is an example you can still love your siblings and fight. If you do not have a sibling (or one you are close to) but have a childhood best friend who feels like a sibling, talk about your relationship in family-like terms and do the same thing. Talk about childhood stories and the ups and downs of loving someone so much.

9. Help them bridge the age gap.

When you have kids farther apart in age, set them up for opportunities to bond that work well no matter the age. Examples include going to the beach, a large playground with multiple structures, the pool, and other activities for many ages, interests, and stages of growth.

10. Provide play breaks and personal space.

One of the things I often see is siblings, especially when they are younger, spend a lot of time together. I hear all about how much siblings fought during vacations and breaks. I suggest giving kids breaks when if things are going well so they don’t tire of the sibling, take them for granted, or get grumpy because there is so much compromise that makes up a sibling relationship. This tip applies to all ages of kids.

   

   

11. Teach your kids to stop holding grudges.

Adult sibling research finds grudges are often held for years, even decades, and get in the way of closeness. So, help your children to accept, forgive, and let go of their conflicts after they have been resolved. Notice if they have not moved on past something and teach them about grace and forgiveness. It’s worth the investment now to preserve their relationship down the road.

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You may wonder how your kids can be biologically related, have the same parents, and grow up in the same house together, yet be so different. These differences may even cause a lot of fighting and sibling rivalry. Age, gender, and birth order are critical factors that affect your children's sibling relationship. You know how important having a friend in your sibling can be. The sibling bond is crucial for your kids' happiness. Now and in the future. So, you must help your children bond, get along, and become better friends.

A sibling can be a playmate when you're young, and become your confidant, sound-board, and pillar of support as you age. Several studies published by Brigham Young University (BYU) discuss the more impact siblings have on one another. One of their sibling studies found that “having a sister protected adolescent siblings from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful. It didn’t matter whether the sister was younger or older or how far apart the siblings were in age.”

And in a 2014 report, researchers found boys learn “altruism, affection, and pro-social behaviors” through sibling relationships. In other words, when brothers have a sibling, they are more likely to be giving, better listeners, and more sensitive and loving toward others. That's why helping your kids become better friends now is one of the best gifts you can give them as a parent.

bothers hug each other outdoors, smiling and laughing

Photo: Ground Picture via Shutterstock

The importance of siblings may be even greater than you imagined! So, as a parent, be sure to nurture yours, teach problem-solving to your kids so you can stay out of their every fight, and give them the special time and attention they crave — so they don’t grow to resent their sibling for taking you away from them. The long-lasting effects of their sibling relationship extend beyond your family dynamics and will set them up for future success as adults.

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Dr. Sheryl Ziegler is the author of Mommy Burnout: How to Reclaim Your Life and Raise Healthier Children in the ProcessListen to her podcast and sign up for her newsletter.