Handle your Children Sibling Battles by Mediation Training and Understanding

Handle your Children Sibling Battles by Mediation Training and Understanding

Have you ever heard of the green-eyed monster called jealousy? Sometimes brothers and sisters are jealous of one another. For instance, if your sister always does well at school, it may be frustrating for you, especially if your grades are lower.When brothers and sisters don't get along, it's called sibling rivalry (say: sih-bling rye-vul-ree). A sibling is a brother or sister and rivalry means competition. It's normal, but too much competition can make for an unhappy home life.

If you have a new baby, don't expect your grade-schooler to be enthusiastic about her sibling right away. The arrival of a new sibling is a major life-change for children, and it'll take time to adjust.
But if your eldest wants to help with the new baby, encourage her to do so! Ask her to bring you a clean diaper when you're changing the baby or carry an extra baby blanket or the diaper bag to the car when you're headed out the door. These "chores" give her a feeling of responsibility and make her feel like an important member of the family.

A little competition isn't a bad thing. Sometimes it can keep you working hard — like when you and your brother spend time shooting hoops. If he's good at it, it may make you want to improve, too. But some sibling rivalry involves arguing, like when you think your brother is hogging the ball. People who love each other might argue sometimes, but too much fighting is unpleasant for everyone.

While there are few, if any, studies zeroing in on siblings of victims, other research suggests that siblings might be particularly affected by violence to their brothers or sisters. For example, studies have shown that young people who witness violence are at increased risk for having problems in school, developing psychological disorders, becoming victims of violence, and committing violent acts themselves. Moreover, teenagers are disproportionately affected by violent crime, both as victims and witnesses, according to Chéry's survivors group. The organization reports statistics showing that approximately one in six teenage students have been robbed at gun- or knife-point, and a similar number know someone who has died violently. Eight percent say they have had their lives threatened.

In most societies throughout the world, siblings will usually grow up in the same household. This closeness is marked with the development of strong emotional associations between them (e.g., love, enmity). However, closeness may not always develop in sibling relationships, particularly between those with an age difference of five years or more.

Refereeing sibling rivalry isn't for the faint of heart. But with some careful navigation and lots of understanding, you can minimize the headaches and make life at home more harmonious.The most common symptom of sibling rivalry is lots of demands for attention: the older child wants to be held and carried about, especially when mother is busy with the newborn. Other symptoms include acting like a baby again (regressive behavior), such as thumbsucking, wetting, or soiling. Aggressive behavior--for example, handling the baby roughly--can also occur. All of these symptoms are normal. While some can be prevented, the remainder can be improved within a few months.

Have a rule: Settle your own arguments, but no hitting, damaging property, or name calling.The more you intervene, the more you will be called upon to intervene. When possible stay out of your children's disagreements as long as they remain verbal. Children can't go through life having a referee to resolve their differences. By arguing with siblings and peers, children will learn to negotiate with others and find common ground.

Let your child help in the preparations for your baby's arrival so he doesn't feel left out. Let him help pick out clothes and toys for his coming sibling. If you're using a crib that once belonged to him, make him feel as if he is contributing something important. Also, set up the baby's room in advance so your youngster will be used to the layout.

All kids feel jealous sometimes, but kindergartners may act on those feelings. Don't be surprised if your firstborn pinches his new sibling or "hugs" her way too tightly. While your little one's aggression toward your other beloved isn't easy to witness, it is a common outlet for his anger.Show your child photos taken when you were pregnant with him and tell him the story of his birth. Set aside some time each day just for the two of you. Tell him how special it is to you that he was your first baby. And reassure him that he'll always have your love.

Try to keep your children from bringing their argument to you for an opinion. Remind them that they should settle it themselves.If the arguing becomes annoying or interferes with your ability to think, go to your children and tell them, "I do not want to hear your arguing. Please settle your differences quietly or find another place to argue." If they continue arguing loudly, send them to the basement, outdoors, or to time-out in separate rooms.

Don't put any big demands on your child right now, such as potty training or weaning him from his bottle. And don't be surprised if your child regresses for a short while, wanting to be the "baby" again.

Siblings are encouraged to stay involved with the care of their hospitalized brother or sister by participating in activities at home or when visiting the hospital. For your child's health and well-being and the health of the other children in the hospital, check with your child's medical team about sibling visitation in that area.

Family therapy may help your family weather the storm. Family therapy can help patch strained relationships among family members and improve how your family works together. Whether it's yourself, your partner, a child or even a sibling or parent, family therapy can help all of you relate more harmoniously.

Family therapy is usually provided by therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists provide the same mental health services as other therapists, simply with a different focus — family relationships.Family therapy is often short term. You usually attend one session a week, typically for three to five months.

Giving parents training in mediation can help their children do a better job of handling sibling battles, a new study shows.

Children whose parents underwent a 1.5-hour session on mediation skills resolved sibling fights more constructively and calmly, were more likely to compromise, and were better able to handle conflicts on their own, Drs. Julie Smith and Hildy Ross of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada found.

While conflicts between siblings "can be frequent and quite aggressive," these fights are important opportunities for children to learn negotiation and other skills, Smith and Ross noted.

In mediation, a "neutral third party" helps negotiate a solution to a problem, with the conflicting individuals having final say over how the conflict will be resolved. There are four key steps in mediation: ground rules are set, the source of the conflict is agreed upon, mediators try to help the conflicting parties understand and feel empathy for one another, and the conflicting parties propose and agree upon a solution.

Perhaps most relevant for parents, the mediator doesn't chose sides or lay blame.

To test whether this approach might help parents do a better job of handling sibling conflicts, Smith and Ross randomly assigned 48 families with children 5 to 10 years old to mediation training or a control group. Parents were then asked to keep track of and rate conflicts that occurred among their children for two weeks or until five such conflicts had occurred.

Conflicts in the group who received the training were usually resolved by compromise, the researchers found, while those in the control group tended to end with one side losing or winning or not being resolved.

Overall, parents who received mediation training said their children resolved conflicts more constructively and took a more active role in conflict resolution. When the researchers observed children in both groups trying to resolve conflicts on their own, they found the children in the mediation group were less negative in negotiating conflicts and more understanding of their siblings.

"When parents are trained to use mediation in their children's disputes," Smith and Ross conclude, "children's independent conflict management improves relative to a control group as does their understanding of conflict ambiguity and of the specific goals and emotions of their adversaries.


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