Siblings During Quarantine

May 21, 2020

Yesterday I took my youngest daughter out for a bike ride through town as we had to drop some things off to several friends.  My older daughter didn’t want to go so it was just me and the “little one.”  Shortly into the ride she said, “I’m glad to get a break from my sister.  Sometimes I just need some space.”  It was such a mature and insightful comment that it nearly threw me off of my bike!  I hadn’t realized it, but it felt good for me too!  It felt good to have some one-on-one time with my daughter, not have my husband around, and of course to be outside!  

We rode our bikes for a little over an hour and a half.  We physically distanced our quick hellos to our friends and shared some laughs and smiles that couldn’t be seen under our masks.  And then we made our way back home.  On our way back my daughter said, “I can’t wait to get back and see my sister.”  Shortly after she made that comment my husband called and said that our older daughter was eagerly waiting for her sister to get back so they could play.  It was so sweet that after being together for 60+ days (I think, who really knows??) they have gotten so close and really need each other.

My girls are only 20 months apart and so they play together A LOT.  They are 7 and 8.5 years old right now.  Often when they play, they get into these imaginary games with their dolls and Barbies and it seems they are in their own little bubble.  They play and they play and they laugh and they laugh and they create and imagine and nothing can stop them!  

AND THEN….a fight comes along!  Yes, it happens! UGH! Sometimes it’s a quick spat and other times it is a real blow out.  And this is what many of us with multiple children have been dealing with all along, but somehow during this time of quarantine it either seems to be more often and/or we are less able to tolerate it.  It often feels easy to just separate the kids, threaten them, yell at them and/or just let them have it out. That being said, most of us probably want to find a way to deal with and manage these quarrels in a proactive way and a way that feels like we’re teaching skills related to frustration tolerance, flexibility, problem-solving, patience, and respectful communication.

So, in a nutshell this what we can do:

  • Instead of diminishing negative feelings about a sibling, we can acknowledge the feelings.
  • Help children channel their hostile feelings into symbolic and/or creative outlets.
  • Reflect each child’s point of view and or help by describing for them what you see.
  • Work on teaching children how to problem solve (through Collaborative Problem-Solving®).
  • Instead of worrying about giving equal amounts focus on each child’s individual needs.

I know parenting siblings isn’t easy.  And now, we’re not getting any breaks and neither are they. All the challenges that were there before that we were able to sweep under the rug while they were at school are creeping out. And so, I’ve decided to offer a workshop on siblings.  Here is the link if you’d like to join.  

Maria Sanders is a Licensed Social Worker and PCI Certified Parent Coach®. She works with parents struggling with any parenting challenge, from getting a child to sleep to communicating with a taciturn teen. A lot of her work is supported by Conscious Parenting and Collaborative Problem Solving. Maria Sanders is Certified in the Collaborative Problem Solving® (CPS) approach by Think:Kids, a program based in the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA

Maria works one on one with parents virtually (phone or video) or in her Montclair office. She offers programs to public schools, independent schools, preschools, pediatrician offices, professional organizations, and corporate settings. Find out more through her website.