Bonds for Life

Si­b­ling bond­ing needs to be nur­tured and guided to en­sure that re­la­tion­ships are forged and last for­ever


How does one share life with a sib­ling(s)? I have heard of when my mother—the el­dest of nine chil­dren, and her neigh­bours with a fam­ily of 11 chil­dren, all lived in the same com­pound. Mom says things were rather peaceful—with the older sib­lings look­ing af­ter the younger ones when needed, all the cus­tom­ary fights, yet all of them privy to a cir­cle of love and sup­port that was im­pen­e­tra­ble. Of course, the rau­cous play­ing with 20 chil­dren was a sight to be­hold! Th­ese are bonds that they have cher­ished through the years, de­spite mov­ing on and away from each other.

I spoke to three mom­mies to know how they have seen their chil­dren bond and what they do to per­haps nur­ture that bond.

In it to­gether

Preethika Peram is mother to a set of three-year-old twins—a boy and girl. Right from the get-go Preethika en­sured that each child un­der­stood the value of per­sonal space and shar­ing. “While both chil­dren have in­di­vid­ual toys of their own, there are of­ten things that we have only one of—for ex­am­ple spend­ing time with an app on the phone—we have in­stilled in them that each child gets a turn to hold the phone and use it. Once they fin­ish a turn, they give it to the other.”

To cul­ti­vate the habit of look­ing out for the other, Preethika en­sures that if one child comes to her ask­ing for some­thing to eat or drink, the same is taken to the other twin. “This we did right from the be­gin­ning and to­day, it has de­vel­oped into a prac­tice for them. Even if I don’t make the of­fer, in­vari­ably one will ask for the other. This goes for just about any­thing they do and now they know that they have to be there for each other and it comes nat­u­rally to them.”

This, in fact, goes to the ex­tent that if one has been given a time out for bad be­hav­iour, the other sits down as well for the du­ra­tion of the time out, be­cause they be­lieve that they are a part of every­thing for each other. They con­sole each other and even cover up for each other. But it is nat­u­ral for chil­dren to fight over things. Preethika says that she waits for them to re­solve it be­tween them­selves and agree on shar­ing it. “If they don’t, I sim­ply take it away,” she says as she be­lieves that this helps them un­der­stand that they need to be able to agree on things or they both lose out.

Nur­tur­ing in­de­pen­dence

Thresy Alex has three beau­ti­ful girls aged 18, 16 and 12 years. Each with a dis­tinc­tive per­son­al­ity of their own, the el­dest and youngest of­ten take the most ini­tia­tive when it comes to get­ting things done. “My el­dest daugh­ter has al­ways been the one to take charge, del­e­gate and look af­ter the younger ones, es­pe­cially when I am not around. To en­sure that the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion are open be­tween them, we have in­sisted that they sleep in a sin­gle room, de­spite my old­est hav­ing a room to her­self. We have found that this has en­cour­aged a close­ness be­tween them.”

Thresy finds that the fights are few and far be­tween, es­pe­cially be­tween her el­dest and youngest daugh­ters, con­sid­er­ing the age dif­fer­ence. The squab­bles that do hap­pen be­tween the older two are usu­ally over clothes and makeup. Thresy laughs when she says she can­not re­mem­ber them ever fight­ing over toys, right from when they were young. She be­lieves that this comes from hav­ing grown up with a large num­ber of cousins, each one look­ing af­ter the other and play­ing to­gether.

The girls have grown up to be in­de­pen­dent, bold young women who can take care of them­selves

and each other, should the sit­u­a­tion arise. They also never fail to sup­port one an­other.

Teach­ing by ex­am­ple

Zinetta Juanita D’Almeida has four daugh­ters aged 12, 10, seven and five. Right from the start, the younger sib­lings have been taught to ac­cord re­spect to the older ones and never ad­dress them by name, but as bai, the term for older sis­ter. This does not change even when they are fight­ing. “I have al­ways en­trusted my el­dest daugh­ter with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties like serv­ing lunch when I am not there,” says Zinetta. “We be­lieve that if she as­sumes the role of a care­giver, the re­spon­si­bil­ity alone will bring down any fight­ing that may hap­pen. We have a large home and each is asked to keep the room clean. Even the youngest gets the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the toy room. We en­cour­age healthy com­pe­ti­tion be­tween them and see who can make the room look like one of the re­sorts that we visit.”

The girls are en­cour­aged to seek each other out for help with stud­ies. In fact, the older ones have to take time out from their study sched­ules to help the younger ones. This, Zinetta be­lieves, helps each one of them to work and cope with stress. “Each one of them is good in their own way—one at stud­ies, one at sports, but we en­sure that we never com­pare them at all,” she says. “Also, as par­ents, we en­sure that we are both on the same page when it comes to deal­ing with them. Even if we dis­agree, we don’t let the kids know. We also ap­pre­ci­ate them for what they do. This way, all of them as­pire for the same.” Teach­ing her kids by ex­am­ple, and set­ting cer­tain ground rules has def­i­nitely help shape them, and has even in­stilled the qual­i­ties of be­ing re­spon­si­ble and car­ing to­wards one an­other, some­thing that’s be­come sec­ond na­ture for the girls.

In the end

What one must re­mem­ber is that ev­ery sib­ling re­la­tion­ship is unique, bond­ing be­tween sib­lings comes nat­u­rally in most cases, but it is also some­thing that needs to be fos­tered and guided by par­ents at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals. This is what en­cour­ages sib­lings to live, learn and grow with one an­other, but more im­por­tantly, be­come part of the same team.

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