Sibling Struggles

Tanya Kemp

Sibling Struggles

Being in the same house with our kids all the time, really amplifies everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly often shows up in the constant bickering, competition and/or downright physical fistfights and aggression between siblings. I want to spend a few days thinking about this and wanted to start off with some universal truths about siblings to help reframe what we see. Hopefully this may help to shift our view to empathy – at least sometimes! ☺

  1. Siblings are always in competition – they still do not trust that their needs will get met. Their sibling is the main reason why YOU – their sole and/or most important/preferred source of connection, comfort, and care, are not available to them – all the time. 
  2. The prefrontal cortex in young children is still undeveloped. It is impossible for them to manage themselves properly when they get angry and frustrated.
  3. Research shows that SO MUCH in what happens between siblings, depend on us as parents: we can make this experience easier in time, or we can aggravate it by how we choose to respond. 

There are things you can control and things you can’t. You CAN’T control how your kids will behave towards each other (or you). You can only control YOU.

One of the most important things you can do for your children, is to build a really good relationship with each of them individually. 

Make sure your kids feel seen and heard and VALUED in the family.

Call to Action:

🡪 Have a look at your schedule and find a way to include special time for each child with each parent in the house. However long that is – make sure that your kids know they get those 6 or 15 or 20 minutes with you every day. They can learn to count on that, and they get to choose what you do together (no electronics).

🡪 Assess how much of your time is spent in friendly interaction with your child and how much time is spent in ‘getting them to do something’. 

🡪 Do you approach your child with an attitude of: “I love how your brain is wired”…its different, its confusing…but it is who they are. Celebrate the child you have. They will feel that too.


Family Story Rounds: Family sits in a circle. Parent starts a story, saying about three to five lines and then the next family member adds the next few lines and so on. Go for as many rounds as you like with a parent ending it in a soothing way. If you create a favourite story you can tell it again sometimes. 

This game allows children to feel intimately connected to a part of their parent’s mind and to be witnessed in their own creative thoughts and internal experiences by their parents. When children re free and encouraged to express their ideas, and parents are able to hear and connect with children through those ideas, there is a safe and perhaps a sacred space created in both the minds of child and parent. 


Put your hands on your heart and say to yourself:

“May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be safe

May you be loved” 

Repeat at least four times or more if you feel so inclined.