There is a whole lot about parenting that we are still trying to figure out. Our kids are still young, so this is not us telling you what we are doing… because we don’t know if it is working. But, we do know that we, sisters, are close so our parents must have done something right. And who doesn’t want their kids to be each other’s best friends?
Without further ado… ways our parents promoted sibling unity.
1. Create a Team Mentality (do chores together)
We were always known as “the girls.” And we always got a lot of attention together. Sometimes we loved it, sometimes we hated it. But we were always together. We might as well have been triplets. But once we got to high school, we were glad we were always together. Some crazy drama was happening, and we basically took it as us against the world.
2. Celebrate their Differences
Yes, this kinda contradicts the whole team mentality thing, but not really. While it is great to focus on them as a unit, it is important to make sure you know them as an individual too. Our parents would take us out one on one whether to go shopping, to a baseball game, or out to eat. Of course, we all struggled with feeling overlooked (what child doesn’t at one time or another?), but I think our parents did a pretty good job of giving us the attention we deserved. They would buy the Baby a random hat because she would be the only one to pull off that look. They would buy Sister #1 a new book they found. Middle Sister would get a new CD. We all felt as if our parents really knew us and actually liked us and our quirks.
3. Don’t Always Interfere with their Arguments
Siblings are notorious for fighting. It is one of the joys of having more than one child. And I am sure having 3 girls probably wasn’t a quiet or peaceful affair. We would yell and cry and yell again. But you know what? Our parents didn’t always step in. A lot of times they would just tell us “the next one that tattles is getting in trouble.” And that was that. We learned how to coexist, maybe not peaceably…
Oh, and let’s not forget that the more our parents noticed we were fighting the more they forced us together. You seem to not really be getting along with your sister, maybe we should make you share a room.
4. Emphasize that They are Each Other’s Best Friends
If there is one quote from my childhood, it would be “Your sisters are your best friends.” All. The. Time. We would beg to have our friend come with us. We would beg to go over to their houses. But more often than not, it was a firm “no.”
“Why do we need to bring your friends? You have each other.”
I remember one time when I was 7, I was being mean to my sisters. Well, guess what my parents did? No friends for over a month. Literally saw them at school and nothing else. I guess it worked.
5. Make the Majority of your Activities Family Only
Yes, almost every memory from childhood includes my sisters, hardly ever friends. All weekend was family time. We went to the beach together. We went to the park together. We explored old cemeteries together (this explains a lot about us…). We did vacation with just us.
And by the time we were in high school, we preferred it this way. On those rare times we would have a friend along with us, we would feel weird. We weren’t sure how to act. And then we might laugh about our friend’s quirks when we dropped them off (sorry, friends, but we did that to each other as well if that makes you feel better…).
6. Laugh Together
Since you are spending so much time together, you might as well enjoy it. Our family had a certain affinity for pranks. We loved pulling them on each other. And to be honest, if we pulled a prank on you, that was our way of showing affection. Our dad was the king of pranks. He pulled one big one at least monthly and smaller ones weekly. I can’t even begin to tell you about them. Some were bizarre (like putting baby powder in a box in our mailbox during that whole anthrax scare after 9/11) and some were more commonplace (hiding under our beds or closets). We never were afraid of monsters, we were afraid of him. So from an early age, we loved watching others get pranked. “Oh, he’s hiding in The Baby’s closet, don’t say anything.” And we got to the point where we wanted to start getting involved too! The best part was that our parents were totally fine with that and even helped up scare each other.
Not only did we laugh when we were pranking each other, but we also were laughing together when we gave each other a hard time. We aren’t ones to tiptoe around each other. You did something stupid? Expect to hear about it. And have people laugh about it. It’s not that we were technically laughing at each other but more at the stupid act (which is different and may I even say a valuable life lesson…).
7. Make Gifts Equal
My parents (especially Mom) were pros at this. No, we don’t mean spend the exact same on everyone (unless you are just giving money). We mean they should be the same type of things. One sister gets a new school outfit, they all get a new school outfit. One sister gets a movie, they all get a movie. I remember many Christmases where we literally got the same thing in various colors. Those NBA winter coats (LA Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Phoenix Suns). Those Aeropostale hoodies (navy, yellow, and red). All the makeup palettes. All the shirts and sweaters.
There was always the same number of gifts under the tree for all of us. Made things easy. No complaining. Plus, it gave us a lot of fun memories. Seriously, we were the only girls in school wearing bright NBA coats all winter- from teams we didn’t even know anything about!
8. Let Them Have Secrets
While it is important for parents to know what is going on in their child’s life, I think some things they don’t need to know. Some are just plain stupid that hold no real value to a parent anyways. And our parents never made us tell them everything (even though I think they heard a whole lot more than they wanted to hear…). There were plenty of things we kept amongst ourselves.
“Don’t tell Mom and Dad, but I held hands with him tonight…”
You get the gist, and more likely than not, parents already can sense this stuff. So why drag it out of the kids? And keeping a secret is a great way to strengthen a bond. And it let’s the siblings learn to trust each other (another valuable life lesson…).
9. Try Out New Activities With Each Other First
Do you remember your first time playing laser tag? Or what about your first time in an escape room? I’m sure you do. It was a great new experience. Something pretty memorable.
When we were growing up, almost all of our first experiences were with each other. This led to some pretty funny stories and memorable events. We went to camp together. We had our first non parents shopping trips together. And those little tastes of new experiences and freedoms were made even sweeter because of who we shared them with.
10. Lead by Example
This is something we consistently saw and heard about growing up… our parents’ siblings. My mom would talk to her sister at least daily, and to be honest, she would be at our house multiple times a week. She was truly like our second mother… hence Middle Sister turning into her (see here). She would bring us to school, take us to the beach, and talk our mom’s ear off half the day. At least that’s what it seemed like as a little kid. And when she wasn’t around, we heard stories of my mom (the big sister) dragging her all over town with her friends while they were growing up.
Our dad also was really close to his sister. He talked to her all the time. We loved going to her house and playing with our cousins. She had a special flare for games and storytelling like our dad. Hanging out with her was always a blast. And the stories my dad would share about them growing up are pretty insane, especially the horrible pranks he would pull on her (he just can’t help himself).
Because of their presence in our lives, we knew what to expect as adults. We knew that we would still be close. We knew we would share the same crazy stories again and again to our children. We knew that we would share literally every detail of our lives with each other.
So there you have it, some ways to promote sibling unity. And if you have any other ideas, let us know. We are in the trenches of it, hoping to come out alive on the other side.