Sibling Tensions: Staying Outside of Details, and Inside Relationships …

by Darlene Denis-Friske

There are many places in my life where my patience is tested and I am offered yet another opportunity to stretch towards maturity. This is definitely the case when dealing with the daily tensions between my children. They remind me of playful and rambunctious pups always ready to jump, leap, and attack! Playfulness can turn to frustration quickly and then sometimes within seconds, they get past the screaming-and-shoving match and move on to the next thing, buddy-buddy once again.

Parents can become so involved in the inevitable tensions of their children. Who did what to whom? Who started it? Who threw the first punch? And then a parent might take a stand in judgement or consequence, perhaps saying such things as: You shouldn’t have done that! You were mean to your sister! You never give your brother a chance! Or perhaps: You are grounded! No TV tonight!

Parents can easily exhaust themselves in trying to convince their children to face each other, work together, take ownership, right the wrongs, and come to some agreement.

And of course, each child wants his or her upset recognized, believed and validated, particularly if it seems a parent is favouring one version of the story over another. A child will vie extra hard for the parent to take their side and understand their position, perhaps feeling terribly hurt and resentful if the parent doesn’t. These can be difficult moments inside the individual parent-child relationship when a child walks away (or is sent away) feeling misunderstood and disregarded.

I learned early on that sorting through details, trying to figure out who did what, is simply not the best expenditure of my energy in these moments. This is where I have found my stretch towards maturity to be so necessary: to realize that when faced with sibling tension, my role is to see the struggle of both my children regardless of who did what.

When we strive to recognize the upset of each child, hear each child, validate each child, and seek to come alongside without judgement or criticism, we can let go of the feeling of having to investigate or take a side. Honouring and protecting my attachment to each of my children when they are spitting mad at each other allows me to simply move in, collect them, calm things, and have them orient towards me. These moments become about slowing things down, helping them deal with the heat of their intense frustrations, and giving them space to work-through their upset.