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Helping Complex Siblings Without Being a Referee

Welcome to Tea & Tips, where we respond to burning questions from parents and educators — taking aim on one topic at a time, guiding you to improve communication, confidence and calm.

Complex kids have sibling squabbles just like neurotypical kids, but they can be more frightening for a number of reasons, and more difficult to manage.

Diane:
So this parent writes that she hates being the referee when her kids are fighting-

Elaine:
Squabbling.

Diane:
With each other. And part of this is about making sure that they're safe, part of this is about just not wanting to be a referee, and part of this is about wanting our kids to have good relationships with each other.

Elaine:
Yeah, it's the longest relationship they're likely to have in their lives. So how do you deal with sibling squabbles? First, you recognize that they're normal. They’re going to happen.

Diane:
It's normal. And we forget that conflict is good, and learning how to manage conflict

Elaine:
in a safe environment ...

Diane:
Is important because a lot of us never have the opportunity to figure out how to be in conflict with somebody else, and siblings are the perfect place to practice that.

Elaine:
My siblings practiced a lot. I'm just saying.

Diane:
Well, and the second thing is about setting realistic expectations. We talked about the fact that it's normal, so it's not realistic in most families to expect that your kids are not going to argue and fight with each other. It's part of how we figure out how to be in a relationship with other people.

Elaine:
So maybe it's not about not fighting, but about helping to focus on teaching them how to do it respectfully of each other, how to do it in a way that works with each other. We've talked about code words in another Tea & Tips about kids having trouble hearing the word no. We used to have a code word for when they were fighting and when you could tell it was escalating to a different place, for them to stop because they learned to recognize each other and not to push each other over the edges.

Diane:
And I think that the other piece of this is about building a team as a family, and kind of helping your kids to know that, like you said, this is the longest relationship they're going to have, and this is about figuring out how to be in a relationship, and part of it is about having each other's back and being there for each other as well.

Elaine:
One of the ways I like to do that is to talk about, “As a family, we….” "We Taylor-Klaus's stand for. We are the TKs and we support each other. We go to each other's events." That was our big thing. So beginning to talk about yourself as a family as a team, what we do together sort of builds that sense of, we're in this for each other and we're supporting each other, and that can be really powerful to help a sibling squabble.

Complex kids are going to have sibling squabbles. Instead of being afraid of them, you can help them learn to resolve their conflicts by creating a sense of team.

 

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