FEATURESQUEENETTE ENILAMA: HOW PARENTS CAN HELP FOSTER SIBLING BOND

I had a conversation recently with someone about their childhood and it reminded me of a quote by Pamela Dugdale: “Siblings are the people we practice life with, the people who teach us about fairness, cooperation, kindness and care – quite often the hard way.” The conversation got me extremely curious about their bond with their siblings. It was exciting and further strengthened my resolve on the importance of laying the foundation right and making parents understand how they unconsciously drive a wedge between siblings with their actions or inactions.

Growing up, the subtle competition between my siblings and me began when my mother constantly sang the praises of my younger brother as the golden child. Nothing he did was ever wrong. My younger sister began to nurse negative thoughts because she didn’t receive the same magnitude of affection.

As the first child of my parents, I wanted my mum to set a tone of unity for us but there was an unconscious level of division and favouritism taking place in our home. When I was never praised or encouraged as the first child, I started asking myself, “Am I not good enough?” And then I developed self-esteem issues. All these happened when I was between the ages of 10 – 18 but the effect persists till today. Our bond is still obstructed. At age 38, we are still on the journey of fixing it but it has been difficult. Most times, when we have a conversation around it, everyone brings out their defensive claws and it makes me wonder if we are actually siblings. We should be each other’s haven.

Parents unconsciously affect the dynamics of siblings’ bond, especially when they make one assume they are the villain and the other, the spare child. In turn, both siblings begin to project these identities unconsciously. Having a sibling is one of the greatest gifts one could own. It is simply having someone you can both see through each other’s lens as you navigate through the journey of life from childhood to adulthood. So when children may find it difficult to love one another, they need their parents to foster or create the right environment for engagement. The bond of unity should be formed so they could stand and rely on each other’s strength. It starts with the little things like household chores.

A lot of children who demonstrate the gift of strength, togetherness and undivided attention with their siblings happen due to their parental upbringing. Most adult siblings struggle with having a great relationship amongst themselves as a result of their childhood upbringing, lack of proper communication and parental favouritism at its peak.

A family is a place of safety where, when all else fails, we draw strength from. Parents should teach their children to show love, trust, commitment and unity with their siblings so they could be each other’s shadow. It should go as far as encouraging healthy relationships amongst their cousins and friends, especially if they share similar values and beliefs. This kind of relationship teaches a child that a sibling does not only have to be blood-related.

The most seamless relationship ever fostered from birth is the sibling bond. They automatically become best friends and defend each other. Even though they have constant fights, they remain each other’s greatest cheerleaders. Parents should help children foster this habit from a young age. They should constantly explain and reinforce this value to their children. 

We should help our children learn to sit with their thoughts and emotions and help them understand it properly arming them with the right tools for engagement. Emotions or feelings not dealt with has a way of resurfacing in their communication with their siblings and this can impact them negatively or positively.

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