Sibling Peace & Holidays

little boy and girl walk in autumn forest

Tips for Managing Siblings, Cousins and Friends over the Holidays

If your house is anything like our house over the holidays, there are children coming and going at all times and many may overstay their initial warm and friendly welcome. Children stuck in the house together who have been used to the elbow room of school and regular schedules can be a lot to handle on top of the rush of the holidays.

  • Plan for the downtime – A few years ago there was a huge snowstorm that kept the girls and I in the house for five straight snowdays. By the end of the first day, I wised up. I made a list of every possible activity that was fun and available in our house. This included regular things like play with groovy girls but also much bigger things like make a pillow fort, take a bubble bath and bake cookies from scratch. It was a long list that we almost exhausted by the end of the week.
  • Make them busy – Contribution is a practice in positive discipline that follows the idea that; children who are engaged with positive behaviors have little time for negative behaviors. This proactive technique is simple – make them busy. Children who are buttering rolls and drawing placemats aren’t resisting the table and argueing about what’s for dinner. Children who are picking towels, bath toys and testing the water temperature and level aren’t running amok and avoiding the bath.
  • Pit them in cooperative efforts – All the better if the efforts are done together. See if they can both clean the playroom to beat the clock, challenge them both to set the table before the end of the next song on the radio.
  • Have a back-up plan or two – Set aside a few fun activities that will work well in a crunch. When kids start bickering and can’t seem to get back in a friendly groove, be ready to pull out Hallabaloo, the cake decorating kit and a cupcake mix, Play-Doh with all the supplies, big coloring books with crayons for all, the bounce house or a good video that all might enjoy.
  • Divide and conquer – Two kids are more likely to get along easily than six. If you are overwhelmed by the numbers then divide them. Two or three kids in each area or at each activity is plenty.
  • Take a walk – When all else fails, bundle them up and take them out.


Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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