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(CNN)Sibling rivalry is often taken as an unexamined fact of family life -- as much a part of parenting as potty training or bedtime stories.
But experts say parents
don't have to put up with the bickering and the fights: There are strategies and techniques to help brothers and sisters get along better, strengthening a relationship that will support them for life and make for a more harmonious home.
Given the enforced proximity that is still a reality for many as a Covid-19 winter approaches, a game plan to improve sibling relationships
could be a lifesaver for struggling parents tired of snarled insults and hurled objects.
The pandemic is testing sibling rivalry -- and you"It's been part of our culture, at least in the US, to think that siblings fight. That there's going to be lots of times they don't get along. That's what they do," said Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied psychology at Northeastern University in Boston."When social lives are so restricted, families really see the value of encouraging their kids to be friends, in some respects, to be companions and playmates."Read MoreUnlike many of our relationships, we don't choose our siblings, and this makes for
a unique dynamic. Brothers and sisters can withstand far more negativity and behavior
that simply wouldn't fly among friends, Kramer said. That's one reason why sibling interactions are developmentally so important. These relationships allow children
to try out new social and emotional behavior, particularly when it comes to conflict, helping them learn ways to manage emotions and develop awareness of other people's thoughts and feelings."It's helpful for children to have experiences in a very safe relationship with a brother or sister where they can work through (conflict) and learn conflict
management skills that they will be able to use in other relationships in their life," Kramer said.
Boys may be hiding their feelings less amid the coronavirus pandemic"Conflict can be very constructive and helpful. It helps children get a sense of who they are and their own identity."It's worth parents spending some time to help their children get along since these are typically the longest-lasting of our close relationships. That shared history can be really important in a crisis. So what steps should you take to help feuding siblings get along? Here are some ideas. One-on-one timeIt may sound counterintuitive, but scheduling regular one-on-one time with your children is a good first move.
Its time to give up perfectionist parenting — forever. Heres how"When you have one on one time there is no competition for your attention. There are no perceived winners and losers in this regard," said family therapist Jonathan Caspi, a professor in the department of family science and human development at Montclair State University in New Jersey."There is the ability to praise and correct without the audience (and it having any meaning) for the other children. It's a freer relationship and one in which bonding and closeness can be developed without interference," he said via email.Another tip: While it's tempting to seize the moments they do get along to get things done, it's important to take a moment and praise siblings when they are cooperating and playing nicely -- parent the good behavior as well as the bad. Intervene or ignore?Tougher to deal with are the fights and knowing when to intervene or not.
As a rule, Caspi said, it's better to ignore simple bickering. However, he stressed that physical violence
and the name calling that often precedes it should be policed."Since violence escalates incrementally in its severity, it is important that parents stop verbal violence before it becomes physical. Name calling is violence and opens the door for escalation into more severe violence.""Do not allow your children to call each other curse words or negative terms like 'fat,' 'stupid,' 'icky,' etc. While physical wounds heal, verbal ones can last a lifetime." Children under the age of 8 don't usually have the skills to manage conflict, said Kramer, who encouraged parents to act as mediators or coaches to facilitate solving the problem at hand rather than serving as a referee.
So your kid has a Covid-19 symptom. What do you do now?"What happens when parents do nothing and don't intervene is that children can get the message that parents think what you're doing is OK. That it's all right to keep on at one another," she said."We encourage parents to intervene to help children manage conflict on their own."For example, Kramer suggested saying something along the following line: "I'm hearing some scuffling. I'm hearing some conflict. I'd like for the two of you to work this out together. If you need some help, I'm down the hall but let's see what you can do on your own."It was once thought that girls used more verbal aggression than boys, Caspi said, but research is suggesting that sisters are just as apt to use physical violence as much as brothers. "The difference may be how severe the physical violence gets. Boys tend to do more damage, particularly when older," he said via email. "It was also assumed that girls relied more on relational aggression (e.g., strategies to socially humiliate, isolating, injure reputation) than boys. However, there is evidence that brothers use this approach about the same too."
Parents should step in when fights turn physical.What not to doThe danger with intervening or involving yourself in children's disagreements is that it can backfire and fuel the fighting. Parents tend to intervene on behalf of the younger child, which builds more resentment in the older and empowers the younger to challenge the older more frequently, Caspi said. Avoid phrases like "You're bigger, be nice!" "Be a good role model," or "She's little, let her have the toy."
Getting kids to connect across racial — and geographic — lines"Another reason for bickering is parents who make lots of comparisons. Parents should avoid comparing their children. Children hear the comparisons and it creates more competition and fighting," he said. It's also important to take complaints seriously. For example, if a child consistently complains, "It's not fair" -- something I find particularly challenging in dealing with my own daughters."When children complain about fairness, parents often dismiss it ... which only confirms the sense that they are on the outside in the parent-children relationship. Acknowledge the feelings and openly discuss it," Caspi said."Parents should observe how they intervene in sibling conflicts. Are you taking one's side more than the other's? If so, change it up," he said. Get CNN Healths weekly newsletter
Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.
Lastly, and perhaps most crucially, both Caspi and Kramer said that it's important for parents to cut themselves some slack and take care of their own mental health. Kids can pick up on stress and tension, and this may lead to more fights."Parents are stretched in so many different ways right now," Kramer said.
News Source: CNN
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Shocking percentage of parents said theyd still let their kids go to a sleepover
Eight in 10 parents feel conflicted about allowing their child to socialize during the new school year, according to new research.
The study of 2,000 parents of school-aged children revealed 79 percent of respondents agree that while they recognize socializing is important for their child’s social development, they need to balance that with the need to not put them or others at greater risk of catching COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, 75 percent of respondents said keeping track of their child’s social interactions in order to mitigate the risk of their child or other family members contracting COVID-19 is a major source of anxiety for them.
Further, nearly half (46 percent) of parents surveyed are using or are considering using a contact tracing app to keep tabs on who their family has been in contact with.
While almost the same number (45 percent) of parents have adopted or would consider adopting a location tracking app to monitor their child’s travels to and from school.
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Smith Micro Software, Inc., the study also probed new rules and restrictions that parents are implementing this school year to face an ever-changing environment and the accompanying guidelines and restrictions.
New rules around socializing include requiring the child to wear a mask while socializing (48 percent) and limiting the number of people their child can socialize with at one time (44 percent).
That’s in addition to requiring their children and children’s friends to social distance when at their house (38 percent) and not allowing their children to visit friends whose families they don’t know (38 percent).
And, when it comes to kids’ social events, parents aren’t taking too many options off the table.
Nearly half said they’ll allow their kids to attend birthday parties, though only 26 percent said sleepovers are on the agenda.
About four in 10 are OK with sporting events, but only 14 percent are comfortable with allowing their kids to attend concerts.
In the case of extracurricular activities, one in five parents said school clubs are entirely off the table this year and one in four said other activities like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are out as well.
“In a school year defined by a global pandemic, having insight into the whereabouts of children and their daily social interactions and activities has never been more important to parents,” said William W. Smith, Jr., President and CEO of Smith Micro.
“Because of this heightened attention, a growing number of parents are making location-based technology a part of their lifestyle as it is a useful way to keep track of their kids.”
But keeping kids safe offline is only half the battle, as 69 percent of respondents said online schooling has made parents more concerned about their child’s internet safety than ever before.
An even higher majority of respondents (85 percent) have used a parental control application provided by their internet or cell phone provider to monitor their child’s internet usage since the pandemic began.
In spite of the prevalence of monitoring, a full 62 percent of parents believe their child is more likely to engage in undesirable online behavior due to the limited social conditions imposed by COVID-19.
Four in 10 have even caught their child streaming video content or using social media when they were supposed to be attending class online and three in 10 have even caught their child viewing adult content online.
Further complicating the challenges, 61 percent said their child’s use of multiple internet-connected devices makes it particularly hard to monitor their internet use and 63 percent said they find the task of monitoring their child’s internet use more closely to be overwhelming.
The surge in usage of connected technology brought on by the pandemic hasn’t been entirely negative, though.
Nearly six in 10 respondents say they’re more grateful for the technology and the way it allows them to stay connected with family and friends when physical social interaction isn’t possible.
“As the boundary between our digital and physical worlds continues to blur, the demand for parenting tools that help safeguard kids both on- and offline will only grow,” Smith said.
“By providing robust location services with cross-device parental controls such as screen time management and age-based content filters in the same mobile app, our SafePath platform addresses an acute need in the family safety market.”
Filed under Coronavirus , parents , sleepover , 9/21/20