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.
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.