Sibling rivalry is quite common in every family. However, it can become more daunting when children from different parents are combined in a blended family. There are certainly adjustments to be made on everyone’s part.
In blended families, sibling rivalry can occur due to the normal reasons like fighting over toys or attention. But it can also arise because some step-siblings don’t embrace and welcome more kids being a part of their lives.
They may get jealous because they are not the only children now or because their parent now has more people to give attention to. Regardless of the reasons for sibling rivalry, there are some things that you can do to combat and ease the amount that goes on in your home.
It is a great idea to meet with the whole family and talk about the new family dynamics.
The children need to hear that both parents are excited about joining families and that the event is looked upon favorably. Highlight the positive aspects and include the children in the meeting. Ask them about their concerns and address them.
Let them know it’s alright to have concerns and that there will be an adjustment period, but things can go smoothly.
Right up front you and your spouse should come up with boundaries and consequences for sibling rivalry.
What will you do when your 10-year-old screams “I hate you! I wish you never moved in!” to your spouse’s 6-year-old?
Be as prepared as you can with consequences to let the children know that unacceptable behaviors will not be tolerated. If you and your spouse have different parenting styles, then you’ll have to come to some sort of compromise because the children need consistency.
Go ahead and make a list of boundaries and consequences and review it with your children.
They may not want to hear what you have to say about boundaries, but let them know this is part of being a family. You talk about things openly and honestly.
If you can take the time to model and teach conflict resolution skills to your children while they’re young, they are more likely to carry them into adulthood.
Be sure that you model positive resolution skills so that the children can observe and learn from you.
Teach children to use their words appropriately to state their feelings instead of acting out or becoming physical. Help them to cope with anger in positive ways like:
Let them know that they can come to you and tell you if their sibling did something inappropriate to them. If you teach them that conflict can be resolved peacefully, they are more apt to respond appropriately when angry or hurt.
Some children might feel like they are not liked as much by the stepparent or that one sibling gets more attention than they do. This may cause them to act out against the sibling or perform inappropriate behaviors in general.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget about the quiet, obedient child when another child is in constant need of attention. But you must make time for all the children individually and fairly. Praise good behavior and let the children know that you delight in them tremendously.
When you consistently spend time as a family doing fun activities, the siblings are less likely to argue with each other.
Having fun with each other creates happy memories and pleasant feelings.
Plenty of families rave about how family nights playing board games, eating pizza, and snuggling up to a movie together brings about peace and joy into the home. When family time is slim or doesn’t occur at all, it tends to cause more tension in the home, which can cause siblings to argue more.
It’s hard to tell how the siblings will get along when families combine, but if you follow these tips and handle issues as they arise, it should be easier.
If it gets to the point where you feel your actions aren’t helping at all, you could consult a family counselor to help you through it.
The reality is that sibling rivalry will occur at times in any family. The degree or intensity will vary based on different factors.
Do what you can to define and enforce your boundaries in regard to hurtful words or behaviors. Have open and honest communication with all the children, and sit down as a family and have meaningful conversations regularly.
Allow the children to have their feelings and share them, even if you don’t necessarily agree. Remember that it takes time for a blended family to adjust, so allow for such time.
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