As a parent you may find there are times when you need a bit of extra information and help with parenting siblings. Use these pages to get information and tips on supporting siblings, and to get advice on dealing with sibling issues.
When we have a moan or need someone to listen to us, the last thing we need is being told that it's our fault or being given an instant solution to the problem. We want the person who is listening to be on our side and to show that they care about the fact that life is hard for us at the moment.
Focus on the feeling, not the solution
Most of the time when children say they feel fed up or annoyed or angry, they don't want a solution to the problem. But you probably already know this! When you come up with an obvious solution they just continue to complain or say that your solution won't work. A lot of adults respond in the same way too.
How to respond to feelings
Here are some examples of sibling complaints/moans and ways to respond that acknowledge the feelings behind them. Remember that children want you to hear the 'feeling' behind the problem.
Child 'I wish Josh didn't go to my school'
It's tempting to say 'Well that's the only school there is' or 'What's happened now?' or 'Why's that?' ; but these responses tend not to get the child to talk more about their feelings.
Try these instead:
'It must be difficult for you sometimes'
'It sounds like you're very upset/angry/fed up/annoyed about that'
I can see you're upset about it'
These help the child see that you are 'listening' to the feeling they have. Once this has happened first, the child may be happy for you to ask 'Is there something we can do to help with this?'
Child 'Nobody cares about me, she gets all the help'
Responses to try to acknowledge the feelings are:
'You feel jealous when grandma and I help Zoe with her exercises'
'It must be upsetting for you when I spend more time with Zoe than with you.'
'You're angry that your sister gets a lot of attention from people'
'You must have been really looking forward to being able to play with dad'
It helps to try and name the feeling your child has and if you say the wrong one, they will tell you so. 'I'm not jealous, I'm sad'. Giving a name to the feeling helps your child feel acknowledged.
If you would like more ideas on acknowledging children's feelings a very useful book is:
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish http://www.amazon.com/How-Talk-Kids-Will-Listen/dp/0380811960