Sibling rivalry ranks high in the litany of parent complaints. In bewilderment we ask, “Why can’t they just get along? Why do they keep fighting?” The warfare heats up and we fret, “Someone’s going to get badly hurt!” We worry, “What’s wrong with them? Where did I go wrong as a parent?” It can all feel more overwhelming and discouraging than world peace.
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This blog is written by the clinicians at Jonah Green and Associates, a mental health practice based in Kensington, MD that provides quality services for children, teens, families, and adults. It is intended as a resource for families who are seeking to expand their knowledge about mental health and mental health services, and also as a resource for families who are seeking quality mental health services, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. Please feel free to post questions and comments on any of the entries as well as on any topics or articles from our companion web site www.childandfamilymentalhealth.com.
Couples and family members who enter therapy to improve their relationships have usually endured long periods of harsh conflict. Couples might be caught in repetitive cycles of criticism and defensiveness; parents and teens might be trapped in power struggles; siblings may find themselves in escalating rivalries. Anguished to stop destructive arguments, people usually begin therapy focused on containing their conflicts. Therapists can help clients to manage their conflicts by helping them engage in respectful communication focused on thoughts and feelings, and avoiding excessive blame, criticism, and stonewalling. With improved communication, power struggles can become more manageable, and conflicts can more easily resolve.
Please enjoy this guest post–a clear and very practical piece written written by Jennifer Kogan, LICSW, who provides counseling and support for parents at her office in NW DC.
What is a parent to do when the kids start fighting?
For parents to answer that question, it can help to look back at our own relationships with our siblings. Can you remember your parents yelling at you both to “stop fighting and get along,” or being ordered to, “go to your room” or perhaps being spanked? Did any of these methods work to help you get along better with your sibling? Most likely they did not.
One thing you can do that is different from what our parents may have tried is to pick up a copy of the book, Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Both Faber and Mazlish were parents of young children thirty years ago. They participated and wrote about the lessons they learned in a parenting group they were in led by the renowned child psychiatrist, Dr. Haim Ginott. [Read more…]
Activities such as games and outings can help families cohere and build feelings of togetherness. Planned, regular family meetings, or “family councils”, can yield particular benefits. Family councils can improve communication, deepen relationships, improve decision-making, and develop a greater sense of belonging for all. Carefully-conducted meetings can also help children learn to voice opinions, problem-solve, and make decisions cooperatively, respectfully, and effectively.
While it is important that families use methods for conducting their meetings that work best for them, the following guidelines may be useful to get started: [Read more…]
Because the process of separation and divorce leads to the end of a nuclear family, family therapy for divorcing families strikes many as an oxymoron. What would be the purpose of helping a family communicate and function better if the family is ending? But while loss and endings are inherent in separation and divorce, the process is also one in which families families reorganize, establish new patterns of relating, and find new roles and tasks for individual family members. Family therapy can be a powerful tool for families to attend to these tasks. [Read more…]