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Why it’s important to give siblings attention

They feel loved

It shows siblings that you love them and helps them feel that they matter too. For example, a sibling will feel loved when they find a nice note from you in their school lunch box.

Reduces jealousy

It helps to reduce jealousy of their brother or sister when a sibling gets one to one time with you. For example, a sibling having 15 minutes each day to play a ball game with you or to talk about their day.

Helps with behaviour

It helps siblings develop good behaviour when you give them attention for doing the right thing. For example, when your sibling child is playing well with another child, give a thumbs up and say ‘great playing.’

Avoids feeling second best

If siblings don’t get attention they often feel that they are second best or left out. Siblings may think that the reason you give more time to their brother or sister is because you love him or her more. Lack of attention can lead to problem behaviour as a way of getting your attention.

‘It’s made such a difference giving him individual time without his brother, we’re both enjoying it and I can’t believe how calm he is as a result’

Attention activities

Ten minute activity

Use an activity jar with young siblings. Help your sibling child write or draw fun activities on small pieces of paper. These need to be activities that last for only ten minutes and for you and a sibling to do together. Put them in a small jar with a lid. When you have a ten minute space, ask your sibling child to choose an activity from the jar and do it together.

Send notes

Write a note or a postcard to your sibling child. Make sure to write something fun and positive, such as ‘I am thinking about you today’ or ‘Have a fun time at football club’. Post it, or put it somewhere for your sibling child to find. Or send a text.

Fun time together

Spend some time each day doing something fun with your sibling child. Ask other people to help you get time to do this.

Find opportunities

If you are not able to find any time alone with your sibling child at home, you can take them out of school in the lunch break to do something together, like having a picnic in the park. 

Reward positive behaviour

It’s easy when things are tough to ignore the good things that your children are doing and only respond to behaviour you don’t like – whether it’s squabbling, moaning, dropping things on the floor, or a habit you don’t like. Siblings will be glad of any kind of attention in a family where things are very busy. Just make sure that what you give attention for is the right thing. If you only ever give attention to bad or undesirable behaviour, then you’ll definitely get more of it.

Take some time just to observe your child rather than getting involved with what’s going on. What are the things your child is doing that you like? Here are some things you could look out for: Being kind, sharing, helping, listening, making something, doing homework, playing well with another child, playing happily alone, doing something you asked them to do, talking in a friendly way…. Even if the behaviour you like only happens for a few seconds, notice it and reward it in some way – immediately.

Some of the ways you can show you’ve noticed good behaviour:

  • Give your child an affectionate touch or hug
  • Smile at your child
  • Say ‘that’s great the way you did that’
  • Say ‘that’s very kind’
  • Start a fun activity with your child
  • Look pleased
  • Or anything else that your child will feel better after

You don’t need to make a big deal out of it – just do something pleasant immediately when your child does something you like. If you do this consistently you’ll get more of this type of thing happening.

As a father I have altered my working patterns so I can accommodate quality time with my son

Know about your sibling child’s life

Knowing all the small details about another person plays a very big part in maintaining a strong relationship. This is particularly so with children. How well do you know what is happening in the life of your sibling child, on a day to day basis? It might be that sometimes things are so hectic that it’s hard to keep in touch with everyone in the family. It might be that you know everything about your disabled child’s life but not as much about your sibling child’s life.

If that is the case see if you can spend some time this coming week, getting to know more about your child’s current world. Some things you’ll know well, others less so perhaps.

Learn all about these:

  • Their friends they most like to be with
  • Their favourite music/group/relative/food/animal/toy/book/film/after school activity/weekend activity
  • The best holiday they ever had
  • What are they most afraid of/excited about?
  • What are all the things they did yesterday (in lots of detail)?
  • What is the most important thing coming up in their lives now?
  • What do they really love doing at school?
  • What wishes and dreams do they have for the future?
  • What is one of the things they most like doing with you/with other siblings
  • What do they most like doing with their brother or sister?
  • What concerns do they have at present?
  • What do they like to get help with from you?