Helping siblings get along at home


by Beth Bender, CCLS

Apr 20, 2020

Are your kids struggling to get along while cooped up in the house? With extended amounts of time at home due to COVID-19, you may be experiencing heightened difficulty keeping the peace. Even during the normal routines of life, when your children are home after school or during the weekends, you may observe tension and fighting between siblings.

First, know that sibling quarrels are normal. Your family is not the only one facing these struggles.

Second, remember that just like you, your children are worried, scared and confused about everything that is currently going on. Take the time to sit down with them to provide validation for their feelings, as well as encouragement for how you as a family are working through this time together. Do your best to be patient with your children and answer all of their questions factually and in a developmentally-appropriate manner. 

Here’s a breakdown of five ideas to help your children get along with their siblings while stuck at home in close quarters.

Provide structure and routine 

Their normal routine has been upended and they are working to make sense of things. Try to keep daily life as close to normal as possible by: 

  • Setting a regular wake up and bedtime schedule to establish routine and help make sure they’re getting adequate sleep
  • Setting aside time to focus on schoolwork

This structure and sense of normalcy will reduce the levels of stress, as well as the amount of random free time during which your children could have conflicts.

Related: Talking to your kids about the novel coronavirus disease

Allow alone time

This could be in their own rooms or in different parts of the house. Your children do not need to spend the entire day together. In fact, it will be good for them to take a break to have some time alone. This can be time for them to work on schoolwork or play independently.

Resolve conflict in a calm manner 

Sometimes, conflict between siblings is inevitable. When it occurs, instead of dismissing it, yelling or sending those involved to their rooms, take the time to hear each side of the story.

Do your best to assist your children in resolving the conflict on their own and challenge them to be kind to one another. 

Set time aside to spend as a family

Here are a few ideas for family-oriented activities you can do to enjoy spending time all together:

  • Prepare plans for lunch or dinner where everyone sits at the table together to eat rather than in their own rooms or in front of the TV. 
  • Play a game that is appropriate for everyone to play together, outside or inside. 
  • Watch a movie together and then spend time talking about what everyone liked or did not like about the movie. 

Take a deep breath

Remember that what we are going through collectively as a world, as well as in our independent families, is hard! No one has this all figured out. The best thing you can do for your children to lower the amount of conflict while stuck at home is to take care of yourself, reduce stress and manage your emotions. 

Related: Maintaining hope during COVID-19 social distancing

When you take care of yourself, you will be ready and able to provide an environment that is safe for your children to talk about how they are feeling and what they are thinking — and for you to be able to help them work through those thoughts. 

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About the Author

Beth Bender, CCLS, is a child life specialist on staff at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's Medical Center.

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