There are 12 years between my second child Kit and my fifth one G. Kit left home when G was only 6 years old, as he had begun university then. We endeavoured to spend all our holidays together and Skype each other every week as far as possible. As parents, we invested heavily into fostering the closeness between the children, despite the gap of years and geography.
It was so lovely when Kit recently spent three weeks of his annual leave with us. For us, the greatest reward is watching the sibling closeness, now 28 and 16 respectively.
One evening, Kit came running down the stairs with a big grin on his face, carrying a book in his arm. It was The Gruffalo’s Child, which was one of G’s most-loved books. We still keep all her books because those childhood years are so precious to us.
“Heh heh, you were the Gruffalo’s Child,” Kit teased his younger sister. “You still look like that.”
“Well, I am the favourite child,” she shot back.
He jabbed her teasingly in the ribs. “Oh really? I thought I am!”
With 12 years and a wide ocean separating them, it would have been all too easy to let them drift apart. But if we had just let them drift – if we had not actively promoted the close sibling relationship – something very beautiful would have been lost.
Six ways to foster sibling closeness:
- Actively create situations where the older sibling has to help the younger ones (like with homework) and similarly, create situations where the younger siblings do something for the older ones (like fetch and carry). As a rule, I never ever paid for tutoring: either I tutor my children or the older siblings do it;
- Don’t play games with young children – “I don’t love you if you don’t do this”, etc – that sow seeds of jealousy and rivalry amongst siblings;
- Have family dinners together often and talk “family” – i.e. get to know each other, like really;
- Spend quality time together where siblings get to do things together without parental involvement and helicopter parenting – camping adventures used to be our favourites;
- Give your children BIG LOVE. If they have a surplus of love, they will share it;
- Model it yourself. Love your First Family.