Susan C. Stone's Practical Parenting Blog dotcom

Siblings and Summer

Posted on: July 12, 2011

While the interaction between siblings can be difficult at any time of the year, summer presents special challenges.

Your kids are together more since they’re not dashing off to school where they spend much of the day apart. They also lack the structure of their school-day routine which gives them a rhythm to follow – a set time to get up, eat, do homework, take a bath, go to bed, etc. Instead, there are more times when they’re together and more time when they’re just “hanging out”. This is both good and bad. Children have a chance to play together but also more time to get on each other’s nerves! And the more different they are in temperament, the more nerves they get on!

While after a demanding school schedule kids revel in the freedom of having nothing to do, this also means there are, inevitably, times when they’re bored. And one way to relieve boredom is to do what you can to rile up your sibling or instigate fights with them!

Also, in the summer families tend to take the opportunity to travel which provides LOTS of time together. This can be a strong bonding time for kids and/or a time to drive each other crazy – to vie for your attention, to fill the down time, to protect their property rights in the back seat, to prove who Grandma loves the most.

What are some ways you can minimize the conflict?

  1. Find separate activities for your children to do. Try not to enroll them in the same classes and lessons.
  2. Schedule separate playdates for each child.  If the playdate is at your house, let each child know that the time with their friend is just for them (unless they want to include their sibling) and that you’ll do something with the other child to keep them occupied.
  3. Try to spend time alone with each of your children. Put them in activities on alternate days or use playdates or weekends to have some one-on-one time with each child. This time is a respite from having to vie for your attention and satisfies their need to have you to themselves.
  4. If the bickering and fighting is driving you crazy, set up a “Team Chart”.  Your children can earn stars on this chart by being cooperative with each other or just staying out of each other’s hair! At the end of a specified time period (say, Monday through Friday),the  “Team” can earn a special  activity (going to the beach, seeing a movie, etc. You can let them come up with the reward). This can also be used to great effect on vacations as well. If the “Team” can gthrough the day in a positive way, they can earn an ice  cream orsmall souvenir at the end of each day. This can really insure a pleasant vacation and have it be a time of  bonding and “forever memories”.
  5. This one is a biggie – make sure you have some grown-up time for yourself and for you and your partner.  You’re also used to children being away part of the day. 24/7 kidtime is a recipe for craziness! Use activities, playdates (at someone else’s house!), babysitters,etc. so you can have your own alone time.
  6. Get a big calendar, circle the day that school starts again, and cross out each day with a big red X!

Enjoy your summer with your kids but stay safe and sane.

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