I have three older brothers, and when I say older I mean way older. The closest one in age is 9 years away from me. The farthest in age is 18 years. When he was about to graduate high school, I was born! So i did not really get to grow up with my brothers. Two of my three brothers were already out of the house by the time I could actually form memories haha. So I basically grew up as an only child. I longed for playmates at home. Mostly, I longed for a sister who would play dolls with me because the brother who was still in the house was a teenager already and was not about to play dolls with me. So that is why I am happy that my girls are close in age. And quite frankly, a little jealous that they get the childhood built in best friend I never had! Here are a couple ways that we try to encourage a sibling bond between them.
Sharing a room
When we knew that we were going to have another girl, we knew that we wanted our daughters to share a bedroom. I think we probably would have had them share a room even if we would have had a boy, up to a certain age. But I absolutely love that our girls share a room. I love that when we check on them in the middle of the night they are in the same bed together. I love to hear their little giggles at night, even though they are supposed to be sleeping. And I love to hear my older daughter sing to, or tell a story to her little sister after we leave their room for the night.
I don’t know if they’ll share a room forever, but I think that sharing a room in these young, tender years has helped to build their foundation of friendship for the future. Something that I’ve noticed is that they feel safe together in their room with each other. On occasion, we’ve had to put them in separate rooms at night because they just won’t settle down together. But the younger one always manages to find her way back to big sissy again before falling asleep. I think they’ve grown accustomed to sleeping next to each other and feel safe when the other is near.
Setting up purposeful times for imaginative play together
My girls are at the age now where I can leave the room and let them play together alone for a few minutes at a time while I get dinner ready, or get the dishes done. Almost every day they have time that is set up where they can just play together, without mom or dad there. Sometimes, I’ll give them a specific task to do together like sensory play but most of the time when it is just them alone I allow them to play freely in their play room. I love this time. Not only does it give me a break to get things done but it gives them a chance to learn to play together. A lot of the time, they fight! Haha but that’s okay! It’s growing pains for their relationship and practice on how to play with other kids. I always tell them that if they can’t share with their sister, how are they going to learn to share with a friend? Most of the time, I try to let them settle their own fights. Sometimes, I have to step in because someone is getting scratched in the eye! But on the rare occasion that they play together, free of interruption and fights it is beautiful. I hear them sharing, and talking, and giggling, and entering created worlds unknown to me. I know that these years are building the foundation of lifelong friendship and I am grateful for the gift my girls have in each other. A built in best friend.
Using purposeful words
Recently, I’ve started using more purposeful phrases with our girls. Phrases like, “that is not how sisters behave”, “Isn’t she the best sister ever?”, “i love you so much sister, you’re my best friend!” “Please listen to my boundaries.”
These phrases may sound silly to an adult but man whenever one sister uses this phrase with the other, it lights up their whole world.
If my older one does something nice for the younger one, I make a huge deal about it! For example, if my older daughter put socks and shoes on my younger daughter without being asked, I have the younger one tell her, “Thank you so much Cam! You’re the best sister ever!” And give her a huge hug. And now they’ve started to say little phrases like that on their own. When they’re fighting, sometimes ill hear my older daughter say to the younger one “This is not how sisters behave!” And I hope that these little phrases will reinforce the type of relationship that I want them to have when they are older. A relationship that is loving, respectful, and appreciative.
I’m not saying to use the same phrases that I’m using, but to find your own phrases you feel will work specifically for your family. Phrases that will help your children identify the values you are trying to instill in them as a part of your family.
I hope these suggestions give you some ideas to encourage your children to love each other and build a foundation that will prayerfully lead to a lifelong friendship.