Sibling Rivalry

"Mom! He's in my room!""Daddy! Tell her to give me the phone!"

Those feuding siblings. Someday they'll be good friends. They'll protect one another, share willingly, and address one another in a civil tone. But for now, it's WAR! Well, not exactly war. More like a constant succession of skirmishes. And while they bicker over personal property, telephone rights, and bathroom time, you tear your hair out and wonder when they'll reach an accord.

Don't worry, they will.

Sibling rivalry is normal, according to experts. It's the proving ground where kids exercise their budding individualism, and establish rights to your attention. Also, it provides a natural opportunity for kids to develop valuable communication skills, while giving you a perfect format for teaching constructive conflict resolution. Leading by example is an optimum method here, as it offers kids strong instruction on how best to handle their differences with one another. So take heed. They're watching how you handle your own conflicts. Newly single parents in particular, may notice especially rigorous sibling disputes. In his book SIBLING RIVALRY, Seymour V. Reit cites increased competition for parents' attention as a possible cause for an increase in strife during this time, and cautions parents from "newly-split- households," to guard against any temptation they may have to use their kids for emotional support or as a weapon in any conflict they may have with the estranged spouse. This type of behavior is destructive, not only to the sibling relationship, but to the emotional well-being of the children themselves. Patient, nurturing support toward each child's individual needs can play a major role in stabilizing the sibling rivalry of a divided household, and establishing an environment where healthy sibling conflict can run its course.

"Healthy" is the operative word. As normal as they are, sibling disputes should never be allowed to become emotionally, physically or verbally abusive. That's the line. In such instances, immediate parental intervention is warranted. If necessary, seek professional help.

In general though, authorities in this field remind parents once again, that this is an integral stage in a sibling relationship, and advise them to strive to remain calm through this sometimes maddening and stormy period. Staying neutral too, is important. Avoid comparing the behavior of one sibling to the other. This is only likely to cause real resentment between them, and lead to diminished trust in you. Stress to siblings their individual uniqueness, and your undivided love for each one of them. This will serve to comfort and reassure them in their natural attempt to establish their own special personality and space in your life, and aid in the overall peacekeeping process.

Then take a deep breath, stand at a loving but protective distance, and try to look forward to that inevitable day when your feuding siblings will finally call a truce.

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