While sibling rivalry and jealousy are almost an inevitable part of the family dynamic, it can be managed. Most siblings don’t try to pummel each other to the point of serious physical injury when they are angry or jealous of one another. That said, in some situations, you may find yourself with children who are angry, violent with one another, and making you wonder if your home will ever feel peaceful again.
How can you recognize that it’s time to get help?
Where do you go next?
What should your first steps be when getting help?
There are several directions your family can take. Picking the right one to meet the needs of your family dynamics is a crucial part of helping to restore peace to your home.
How do you know if you need help?
Many of us delay reaching out for help because we feel it’s just not that bad. Surely a family problem can be handled by and within the family?
In truth, sometimes, it does take an impartial third party to see just how bad things have escalated. It can also take a strong therapeutic background to understand the best way forward for a family in crisis.
Sibling conflict is a normal part of growing up on many levels, but when conflict crosses the line into something more serious, it cannot go without being addressed. Sibling abuse can potentially leave lasting effects on the victims.
What should you be looking for?
There are many signs of physical abuse. Occasionally pushing or shoving your sibling is not out of the norm for many siblings. When it escalates to deliberate and aggressive behavior that leaves marks, it’s time to step in.
Emotional or mental abuse is also a danger among siblings. Teasing your sibling isn’t something unexpected during childhood and adolescence. However, it can soon escalate to a situation where you have one or more children miserable at the mercy of an abusive sibling.
The targeted siblings could start to struggle with depression, anxiety, a lack of self-image and self-esteem and could also show behavioral and emotional issues.
Can you avoid sibling jealousy?
Parenting guilt can become a concern when there’s any stress or conflict within your family. You may wonder if there was anything you could have done to avoid the jealousy you’re seeing between your children.
Even in families where everything has been fair, there may still be issues. That said, there are some things that you could do moving forward to try and encourage a better sibling bond:
- Offer healthy praise for positive behaviors. Too often, we tend to focus on discipline for the unwanted behaviors. While pointing out the importance of needed behavioral changes is important, sometimes kids and teens need to feel that they are doing something right.
- Do things with each child individually. It can be easy to get into a routine that doesn’t allow you much time with each child. This can quickly lead to jealousy amongst siblings. Try to schedule a time to do something special with each child. Whether that’s going for breakfast together on Saturday morning or preparing a family dinner together. It’s the time together that should be the focus versus the activity itself.
- Remind each child of their strengths. If your child points out how his sibling might be better at something than him, this is your chance to remind him of his strengths. Reminding him of just how special and important he is can go a long way.
- Don’t compare siblings to each other. Your children may compare themselves to one another, but you need to ensure you are not doing this. You can recognize the successes of your children without making comparisons.
- Reinforce how much you love and care about them. Even children can fear that their behaviors may lead their parents to stop loving them. You must reassure your children that you love them, no matter what they do or say. Reinforce to them that you love them just the way that they are.
Know when to step
Arguments and fights are inevitable between siblings. What should you do when these fights take place?
- It’s rare that you’ll see everything that transpired before a fight broke out. Try to avoid blaming and risking making one of the siblings feel piled upon.
- Listen to each of your children when trying to reach a resolution. Frustrations and emotions can run high, so listening to what each is saying is important, beyond the crying and yelling.
- Use arguments as an opportunity to show children how they can better solve their future disagreements. They could share, compromise, or find a more positive approach to a similar situation in the future.
- Hold family meetings to discuss what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. Family meetings also offer opportunities to discuss the things that are triggering arguments.
Even with doing everything the right way, with ensuring openness and fairness, it could get to the point where things have escalated beyond what you can control. What your breaking point looks like may differ from what another family experiences.
Perhaps it’s the first time that an argument gets physical. Or perhaps it’s once the situation has escalated to the point of children feeling bullied, afraid, and now struggling with their mental wellness.
Get the right type of help for every family member:
- Individual therapy can be beneficial for every member of the family.
- Family counseling can help every member of the family learn how to better interact and meet the needs of others.
- Get additional help from school counselors and coaches. They may be able to give further insight into what may be behind the behavior you’re seeing in your children.
- Consider residential treatment options. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it can help a teen to be removed from the situation causing him stress. In a residential treatment facility, your teen will be able to address the issues that have led to his jealousy, resentment, and aggressive behaviors.
While family matters should often be kept private versus being shared in a public forum or on social media, when it comes to sibling jealousy and issues related to the jealousy, getting outside counsel can be a better direction to go in. Try as we might, sometimes we simply can’t see a solution to how our children and teens are feeling and behaving.
Getting help from a professional who has experience working with children and teens can make a world of difference for everyone in the family.