HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN CLOSE TO YOUR SIBLINGS GROWING UP?
I can tell you that I have. We did have a period where our interests differed, but as far as I remember, my sister and I have always relied on each other whenever we were in trouble or whenever we just feel plain happy. There are 3.5 years difference between us, so naturally, there were points in our life where we didn't truly understand each other, but it was okay. It was all part of growing up, especially that our personality was also vastly different. While I was the nerd in the family, my sister has always been surrounded by friends and she was popular as a student. However, we influence each other. A lot. Both of us love comics, drawing, music and movies. Whatever I did in my spare time, she did it, too, even if the result was vastly different. Was that the reason why we were so close to each other?
Wel, yes and no.
We did share a few interests growing up, but we are still two vastly different personalities. We have different approaches to a lot of things. If I'm methodical, she's more intuitive. If I'm impulsive, she's calmer and more relax. There were even times where we were actually frustrated with one another. We used to have explosive fights.
However, whatever we do, we always feel and miss each other's presence. Even now after we have our own children. And I have always been filled with wonder at how we manage to maintain this togetherness. I'm not talking about being together physically - it's more about mental support, I suppose. Whatever I do I never feel alone. I know my sister is out there to support me if I need her. That's why I have lately been self-analysing our sibling relationship. Especially now that I have my own two daughters and wish for them to have the same relationship that I have with my sister. Some people might be lucky in the way that they just click with their siblings right away, but surely there are things parents can do to encourage cool sibling relationship?
Talking about prents, my parents must have done the right thing.
But if there is anything I DO learn, sibling relationship is forged from day one your older children are introduced to their newborn siblings. And although it may not be perfect, this is the kind of environment that my parents, and now I, tried to provide for that wonderful relationship to blossom.
So here is my thoughts on the subject. This is just sort of a reflection on my journey as a sister and what works so far for my own children, so by all means, anyone can add to the list.
- Kindness and respect
Being kind and respectful pays. As far as one concerns, children always try to push their boundaries and often they will do the same with their siblings, but this is all fine as long as they are mindful of the other’s feelings. Growing up, my parents always emphasise on the importance of saying kind words to the others and refraining from saying hurtful comments. As siblings we are sometimes guilty of doing this, but the goal is not to make the hurtful comments into a habit.
My parents always said that since there are only the two of us, we have to rely on each other, especially when the day comes when my parents have to leave this world. It is interesting how they actually teach us this early by asking me to help my sister with small things. And as my sister grew up, they encourage us to do little things for each other, and it could be something as simple as fixing a drink for the other. I now look back fondly on those days when I’m encouraging my eldest to help her sister with things like fixing breakfast, tying shoelaces or just simply to draw a shape. Not that I can’t help her myself, but it’s so heart-warming to watch them converse with each other as my eldest teaches her younger sister to do things. Often it didn’t just stop at helping. They ended up spending time with each other. This pattern hopefully would follow them as they grow into adults, just as I’ve been enjoying it with my own sister. We have come to rely on each other for emotional support or just simple companionship.
- Always point out how much love they have for each other
My mom passed on a very good habit as we grew up. She would mention the special thing that my sister would do for me that I might not notice in private, and she would add something like, “See how much she loves you.” Or something like that. I have just started to do this recently. Sometimes it was all very simple, really. I would point out how happy Edie looks whenever Olivia comes home from school to Olivia and told her how much her younger sister loves her and misses playing with her. And vice versa, I told Edie how much Olivia cared for her by giving her a lot of her time.
- Never force us to stick to each other all the time
Children are children, and sometimes they just want to play with children their own age without being a babysitter for their younger siblings.It is great for children to stay in a group and be aware of each other's safety as a rule of thumb, but from my experience growing up, I have never felt burdened by the presence of a younger sibling. That was probably because my mom was almost never onto me when she saw that I wanted to spend my time with a different companion more than my sister. She would gently remind me to include 'everyone', but never specifically mentioned my sister's name. It might be a little tricky depending on the situation, but this has worked well in the past, so I'm doing it to my kids. My youngest, while she has no friend her age in a play date would naturally follow her older sister, but I try very hard not to turn her into a burden and vice versa. It's been great, so far! They try to accommodate each other whenever they can. And when things don't work out, the other could always find an activity that she can do by herself, or she could hang out with me.
- Fighting is alright, but don't forget to make up before bed time... Every great relationship includes great fights (and huge make-up). That's why a lot of great parenting experts out there advise parents not to get involve (too soon) in their children's fights. I let my children fight all the time, and encourage them to think why they fight in the first place. There is also one thing that I carry with me after all these years, that it is okay to let go of my pride and be the first one to extend the peace offering. Giving way and apologising doesn't mean defeat.
- ...And no matter what they do, don't compare them with each other
This is hard. Sometimes you feel that you favour one child's abilities more than the others, but whatever you feel, at least do not express it in words. I feel this way occasionally. Sometimes I gave into the urge, but I don't think it's beneficial for my children and for their relationship. Being labelled is never pleasant, no matter how great the label might sound. It creates competition, and sometimes even jealousy. As children, they hinder close sibling relationship. It is hard to trust and be close to someone you feel is your rival, don't you think?
Anyway, those are my thoughts when it comes to encouraging close sibling relationship. Or at least, that what I notice works so far. I saw a lot of great sibling relationships (and not so great), and all of them circle around those six points above. I saw siblings who in the surface seem great and close to each other, but got into competitive bickering and blame game. On the other hand, I also saw great sibling relationships where the siblings genuinely loved to spend time with each other, where there were a lot of tolerance, fun banters and emotional support. I am grateful that my sibling relationship is a beautiful one and I wish for others to experience the same thing. If I have to describe it, my sibling relationship is not perfect, but it's full of laughter and togetherness. We seek each other out and we do crazy things together. We even still behave like children whenever we are together (sometimes). LOL.
So what do you think about this month's comics? Yep, that was one of the crazy things I did with my sister. Definitely not recommended. Actually, just in case you're reading this. this is not the first time I drew about haircut. You could read about my other haircut adventure here. I have also added a comic archive, so you could find past episodes easily. It's here.