School holidays are here, and already you’re filled with anxiety. Your children are such wonderful individuals, but problems always arise when they get together. They’re constantly fighting over anything and everything – from the TV remote control to who bathes first.
You dread the thought of continual bickering in the weeks ahead. An endless list of moans and groans from them can make your day seem like an eternity.
Sibling rivalry is a natural part of growing up, and those who are close in age tend to compete more. Yet there are steps you can take to reduce tensions between your kids.
One of the key factors that unsettles all pupils during the school break is boredom. While you don’t need to over-plan, some form of arrangement is useful.
You can organise outings (even if it’s only to the neigbourhood park), give a structure (for instance, indoor play in the morning and outdoor activities after lunch) and plan a broad range of indoor activities (such as jigsaws, paintings, computer games, books and DVDs).
As they seem to be antagonistic towards each other for much of the time, you can also suggest board games that encourage them to take turns, respect each other and negotiate. Besides play, allocate household chores (for instance, tidying up their bedroom) and supervise to ensure that they work in unison. All these activities keep your children busy and drive away boredom.
When the kids fight, again
No matter how well organised you are, however, your kids will probably still have fights with each other.
Try not to jump in too soon when their arguments are petty. Ignoring them at that stage may end their spat sooner, rather than rewarding their disagreement with your immediate attention.
Obviously, you’ll have to get involved when they’re at each other’s throats or have gone too far. When that happens, deal seriously with their complaints.
Don’t just drag them apart and put them into separate rooms. Keep them together when trying to sort out their disagreement. Ask each to give an account of what happened. Listen objectively and summarise the problem at the end.
Ask them to explain why they think their sibling is behaving badly. Encourage them to give specific examples of the annoying act rather than making general accusations. And where there’s no real justification, point that out to them. By doing so, you’re teaching them how to resolve conflicts on their own.
Make peace now
It’s also important to make it clear that you’ll not stand for any violence between them. No matter the severity of their dispute, they must understand that the only way they can express their disagreement or frustration is through words, not punching or kicking.
Remind them that you want them to get along better and show respect for each other. And praise them when they compromise and cooperate peacefully.
By taking such a hands-on approach instead of leaving everything to chance, the school holidays might actually turn out to be much more enjoyable than you anticipated.
And if you can reduce sibling conflict during the break, the same positive atmosphere is likely to continue when they return to school.
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