Sibling rivalry is universal. But we probably haven’t faced a time in living memory where it has had such opportunity to come to the fore.
Let’s be honest: lots of grown-ups have been experiencing more heated moments, more frustration and struggles to communicate in respectful and caring ways. If grown-ups are struggling, we need to cut our kids some slack.
Remember, they are trying to negotiate all this without a fully formed prefrontal cortex — a mature brain.
And consider that every human is genetically programmed to protect the limited resources that will help them survive. For your children, that includes not just food, shelter and water. They also depend on and compete for your time, love and attention.
And despite being born into the same family, siblings are unique human beings. Your kids have differences of temperament, development, neurodiversity and maturity on all levels.
When we squeeze all these differences into little people, tweens or teens, of course there will be some challenging moments.
Kids’ capacity to manage their energy and self-regulate emotions and moods is still developing. Have you noticed that sometimes siblings can play really well together for anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple of hours, and then all hell breaks loose?
Research shows some children run out of energy quicker than others, and feeling depleted energetically can cause a rise in cortisol, the stress hormone.
Given everyone is struggling with higher levels of stress right now, it would make sense that many homes are struggling with more sibling rivalry.
Do you have brothers or sisters? Did you ever feel that fighting with them was a bit like squeezing a pimple? You know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t help yourself.
Maggie Dent is a parenting author, former teacher and counsellor. She is host of the ABC’s Parental As Anything podcast.