Dear Dr. Rene,
My family has a history of siblings not getting along. I was never close to my sister growing up. My mom and dad are practically estranged from their siblings. My sons are only four years old and 14 months old. Is there anything I can do now and in the next few years to maximize the odds they will become life long friends?
Hope, Mother of Two
First thing to do is be sure you’ve let go of the expectation that the boys won’t be friends. Expect they will enjoy each other and find ways to build a positive relationship over time. Our expectations may help to shape the outcome.
That said, avoid putting pressure on the specific relationship. There is an idea that insisting on good feeling between children leads to bad. If you find yourself saying, “you will love your brother. He is supposed to be your best friend in life!” it is likely bottling negative emotions which may pile up and work against the relationship. It is a better practice to allow for and recognize the negative emotions. When children feel heard, they can let go of the fight and hopefully move forward.
Ideally, you are giving opportunity and encouragement for togetherness without pressure. Think of ways they can be together like sharing a room or work together like cooking without force. There is more detail about these suggestions and many others in Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlish. This is a fantastic parenting book and would be a good next step.