Ok…maybe my daughters don’t hate one another. But let’s just say they’re not the best of friends. Growing up, my brother and I had our fair share of fights—and with my being the baby, I typically got my way. Was I spoiled rotten? No, but I definitely wasn’t an angel! We are six years apart, and in the end, that age gap actually worked out fairly well for us. So when I learned that I was going to be having my 2nd daughter seven years after my oldest, I just knew their relationship would be good.
Naturally, with the age gap I knew there would be some issues in the beginning. My oldest daughter had basically been an only child for seven years! I can imagine how traumatic that was for her and always tried to make sure to have quality one-on-one time with just her. But as they get older, it’s as though they really and truly don’t even like each other—which just breaks my heart. The older daughter is now a teenager, and the youngest one wants attention on her 24/7 as well as to play with Barbie all the day long. Literally—ALL day long! My teenager would rather be a recluse in her room with her only contact with the outside world being FaceTime with her friends. God forbid we actually all do something as a family and enjoy it.
Since we would be spending so much time together as a family over summer break, I decided to try a few new things to help bridge the gap in their relationship. After a summer of trial and error, these are my 5 tips for raising sisters that will not only get along, but might actually begin to enjoy one another’s company!
I have to watch myself with this almost daily! My oldest daughter excelled pretty quickly in kindergarten and was already reading on a 3rd grade reading level before the school year ended. My youngest daughter, on the other hand, struggles quite a bit academically, and it takes her a lot long to grasp things. No kid EVER wants to hear how one sibling did something so much better than the other. NEVER refer to your children as “the smart one” or “the pretty one.” I’ve heard people say this around their kids, and I just want to cringe. Can you imagine what that does for their self-esteem?!
Spend time with each child separately.
I think this is one of the best things that I can do for my girls. Neither child is trying to “compete” for attention, and the best part is that there are no fights! Just like we love having that one-on-one time with our significant others, our children love that special time too. It can be something as simple as going for ice cream or a fun mani/pedi spa day.
Encourage shared activities.
This could be playing a video game, a board game, or watching hilarious videos on YouTube. I’m always amazed at how much giggling they do when it’s an activity they both enjoy.
Don’t pick favorites.
Just like it’s so important to avoid labeling your kids, showing them who’s your favorite is just a recipe for disaster. I’m not going to lie—there are days when one daughter is by far the “favorite.” However, notice I said days! I usually joke with them and say my favorite is the one who didn’t make me raise my voice; by that point, I’ve already had to raise my voice so they know they’re both on the same level.
Tell them how proud you are of them.
Giving praise for a job well done is so simple, but sometimes we forget how much it can mean. It’s easy to just assume that our kids know that we are proud of them, but to say it out loud gives them more validation.
These steps are only a stepping stone in the complex relationship of siblings. I plan to continue to foster a loving environment and hope that as they grow older that their relationship grows as well.