Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Sibling Rivalry (and Couple Rivalry) During Shelter at Home

Being stuck at home during this pandemic can bring on more family stress, sibling rivalry and grown-ups having disagreements!  We all enjoy quiet family time, but too much togetherness ALL DAY LONG, can make anyone want to pull their hair out.  If you were working outside the home before, just being away from home was a break, or maybe you were a stay at home parent and had a mother's day out break.  Now?  No breaks and everyone wanting to kill each other.  Not to mention the growing anxiety we are all feeling- The fear of getting sick and not knowing when our shelter-in-place will end.

With parents trying to homeschool while working at the same time, or trying to get anything done, siblings are a given to not get along. Sometimes I just want Nanny Netflix to take over, because let's be honest, turning on the TV zones them out and there is a a sense of calm (as soon as they stop fighting over which show to watch that is).

So, while being inside at home all day, here are a few tips to help with Sibling Rivalry,:

1) Plan a family meeting, no matter their age so they know what is expected of them during this time inside. Kids LOVE structure, routines and knowing what is expected of them.  Want to see kids act out? Not knowing their limits and expectations.

       During the meeting, empathize how hard it is to be inside most of the day, and how it's normal for them to feel anxious, tired, moody, etc.

       Go over what each family member can do to help.  Tell them we are all going to have to help more at home. Suggest things such as, "instead of just bringing your plate to the sink, help wash it in the sink and put in the dishwasher, etc."

      Talk about how everyone can get on each other's nerves, even Mommies and Daddies.  Talk about taking time-ins: going to their own rooms, or if they share a room, have a space they can go to be alone for awhile.  Encourage breaks!

     Then have the kids come up with ideas for other routine things like meal times, tv times, school, etc. even if they are 3,  they can give their opinions :)

2)   Make a sibling bulletin board, or wall or use your fridge to stick notes for "catching them being good".  When you see them treating each other kindly, write it down and put a sticky note up on the wall! When there are 5 or 10 each (depending on age) give them a silly reward (extra story at bedtime, baking something fun, having a pillow fight, etc.)

3) See if you can get them to take pictures of each other goofing around that you can print out and put up on the bulletin board to create a sense of having fun with each other!

4) Have regular alone times away from each other.  If you discussed this in the family meeting, talk about places where they can go for a 'time-in.'

5) Have them settle their differences on their own if no one is getting hurt physically!  They won't accuse you of taking sides either :) Plus it teaches them how to come up with a good solution, which is what we are trying to teach them to do to become adults, right?  If they still insist on help, then listen to each side, repeat back what each said so they are heard and then say, "It sounds like you both feel the other was wrong, and I trust you can come up with a solution that will work!" :)

*Side note on screen time: try not to let them play too many violent video games, it can backfire and make the kids more aggressive towards each other.

How can the Grown-Ups stay sane too?

1) Make sure you are taking alone time breaks.  Parents need sanity breaks too! Steal away 15 minutes of alone time here and there during the day.  Even if you need to turn the TV on for the kids, or let them get on a device or video play games.  It's okay during this stressful time to allow more screen time.

 2) If you are feeling stressed around your partner, recognize it and admit you are feeling overwhelmed.  It's easier to have compassion towards someone when they admit they are feeling worried, rather than lashing out in anger.  So admit you're scared or worried instead.  If your partner didn't practice great cleaning skills with the groceries or packages, instead of yelling at them, tell them you are upset and worried about keeping the family safe.

3) Try to wake up a few minutes before the kids and sit quietly in peace before you start your day.  And don't start your day consumed with coronavirus related news.

4) Be kind to yourself and allow your own fear and anxiety.  Mood swings are common during prolonged stress.  Allow yourself  to feel these feelings, and it will help you bring more kindness to your partner as well. Shutting out these feelings keep them bottled up inside ready to explode.  Journal or take a warm bath to help relax.

5)  Take it one day at a time.  This experience of being sheltered at home is new for all of us!!  Don't worry if the trash isn't taken out, or school work wasn't done.  Give yourself a break and things will feel a little less stressful with your partner/family.

As a family here are a couple of ideas to help make the day more cheerful:

1) Encourage everyone to think about, "What are 1-3 things that brightened your day today?"  Maybe it was when your partner heated up your coffee for you, or your child gave you a hug!
Write them out and stick them on a marker board, talk about them at dinner, or write in a notebook.

2) Another meal time question can be, "What is one unexpected thing that happened today, and how did you solve it?" This is a technique from an anxiety expert, Lynn Lyons, who says it helps kids and adults learn to decrease anxiety by showing they are in charge of something, and not your anxiety.  Anxiety loves to be the boss and take over, so this empowers people to be in control.

3) Play hide and seek.  I know this is an old classic, but in the middle of the day, have everyone take a break and have the kids hide and the adults seek!  It will bring a much needed time out from daily stress and lots of laughs!

What do you do to help your kids and partner stay sane?


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