Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sibling relationships (teenage years)

Full question: What things did you do in your family that most strengthened your kids' relationships with each other, especially as they moved into teenage years and adulthood?

Some brief ideas pulled out of the answers below:

Teaching - not solving sibling fights or picking sides, modeling by showing loving behavior towards parents’ own siblings, encouraging siblings to call each other

Shared meals – breakfast, dinnertime

Shared recreational activities – play, vacations, camping, skiing, encouraging friends to come over instead of kids leaving to go to friends’ houses, limited individual extra-curricular activities, shared rooms

Shared work – yard work, Saturday house work, paper route, dinner clean-up

Support – attending siblings’ performances, saying “I love you,” sharing duties during long-term illness

Family time – Sunday family day, Monday night family time, weekly scheduling to avoid conflict, scripture study in the mornings

Mary and Robert
Ours was the party house.  That may be one of the best things we did to help our children bond as youngsters.  They knew that their friends were always welcome and could hang out.  Since they all participated in either drama or music and often the two departments crossed over, they knew many of the same people.  Everyone came to our house and often.

When the Ensemble (music group) needed a place for a retreat we volunteered.  At prom time, rather than have our kids going up the canyon after the dance, we heated up the pool, prepared the house with ping pong, Foosball and air hockey and stayed up until 5am chaperoning until we fed them breakfast and sent them all home.

For a long time we had kids hanging out and visiting with us even when our children were not home or not interested in seeing their friends. It bonded our family because our children knew we loved and appreciated them and approved of their friends.  (And if we didn't approve of some of the friends, we didn't let our kids know, we just kept those kids even closer.)

Another thing that we did was insist on their double (at least) dating until after their missions.  Sometimes it was a brother or sister who make up the other half of the date.

Sometimes it was a matter of them against us in a conflict.  I don't mind the times when that was true.  I don't recall who won them but it was nice to see them on the same side.  We could usually count on them to do the right thing when they had each other as the police.

Anna and Gerry
I think the most important thing that we did most constantly was to have evening meals together.  I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and one of the benefits/challenges was that we didn’t have a lot of extra money.  It was tight and we had to make a lot of sacrifices so that I could be home.  However, because I was home, I prepared dinner every night.  Those times around the table were where we connected with our children, but it was also a time where they connected with each other.  Most of the time it was loud and obnoxious with their goofing off, but they were together and talking, with us, and each other.  We often had an extra teenager or two, and there were often comments from them of surprise that I made dinner, and that we ate together.  We were fortunate that my husband, (the kids’ father) had employment that allowed him to be home in the evenings at a fairly regular time.   Another benefit with that was that the kids each had a “dinner night” once a week, where they had to help with the cleanup after dinner.  We often found that they would “help each other” so they could be done faster, and then that help was returned on another night.  Dinner time was HUGE in my mind.

Our children were allowed to choose an extra-curricular activity from time to time, but each one of them was not involved in 5 different sports and 5 additional “lessons” at the same time.  Again, we had to make sacrifices because I did not bring in an income.  It was hard, but looking back, it made it possible for them to spend more time together because they were not as “involved” in everything that came along.   We had vacations, but most of them were home-made, in the form of camping, or visiting grandparents,  and other less expensive options.

As they got older and got jobs after school, it was harder to keep them home.  We always had scripture study in the morning, but I’m not sure that was especially bonding for them, and we always had family home evening, and of course any time spent together helps builds relationships.  We expected them to be home on Monday evenings, for the whole evening—no going off with friends on Mondays.  That remained an unspoken rule as they got older.  Also, Sunday was a family day—not a day for friends.  We would sometimes watch a good movie together on Sunday, or play games, but it always remained a family day for the most part.

If I had to choose one thing that helped build their relationships, it would be dinner together.

Brianne and Spencer
I felt like I couldn't answer the question, not really remembering anything specific so I sent it out to my kids and got their ideas & consolidated them.  I've added just a few notes myself.

italicized text are quotes from children

“Truly the foundations started long before the teens. You never preached, something my friends with pious parents complained about.”

“You never had a "strategy" or set out to do this.  You let it happen naturally.  I think what happened when we were young really formed the foundation and come teenage years the foundation was there so it just continued."

“We were always expected to treat our siblings well.  You didn't solve our problems with each other for us. I remember learning to work out fights and issues with ___ on my own. When we were younger you never picked sides either.”

We did set high expectations for the way they treated each other.  I talked about the good times I remembered with my older siblings and told them they could be the awesome big brother or sister that would be remembered.  Did not ever set them up to compete with each other. Each child had some undivided attention & listening time from parents at bedtime nightly.

“FHE was never forced or super structured. It was just about having fun and spending time together.  I don't think our activities or time together was ever forced or over planned. It helped us be ourselves and grow closer to each other.”

“Having fun activities as a family that allowed us all to interact together and have fun such as playing slippery fish (a made up game) when we did laundry chores, or scrubbing cucumbers for pickles on the front lawn.  Picking berries together. We all played together. Sardines. Did crafts, acting, movies, board games, walks to the pipe, etc.”

We as parents played with them.  We made time, sometimes popping in and out of the make believe for just a couple minutes as we were doing our chores.  We went on outings to the beach, the park etc. – not to watch them play, but to play with them at least for part of the time.  We made chores into games.  We found ways they could feel like they were contributing, even if they ate more berries than they picked.  Everyone contributed to the common good. Everything was a group project.  They had their own friends, but being with family was fun and they were appreciated there.

“We also did a lot with your extended family growing up. This modeled being close to siblings since we saw you interact with your brother and sister.”                      

We never criticized family members in front of children.

“Encouraging us to play with our siblings on Sunday since we couldn't play with friends.  Sundays were the days I played with my sisters. There were many occasions when you encouraged me to spend time with my younger sisters or call them up.  That happened more in later years when I might not have thought about it because I was busy with other things.”

“You planned and continue to plan family meals/activities to get us all together and try to make it so all can attend showing us that is important."

We had family meals around the table every night.  Sometimes Dad was working or one child wasn’t there, but we sat at the table, ate and talked.  Everyone was part of the conversation. We guided them to encourage and value each other with subtle suggestions.

I have been thinking a lot about the question you posed this week.  The things that most come to mind were some of the trials we went through.  They were not things we anticipated, invited, or expected.  The biggest was the extended illness and loss of the father in our home.  All of the children at home were over twelve and they all stepped up and helped with chores, and etc.  I was working outside the home so their help was critical.  There were rough patches but we got through.  Sometimes it just comes down to putting one foot in front of the other.  We tried to make sure that there was always someone with Dad, (or as much as possible).  It was a matter of pulling together.  

There were a couple of fun things we did together after my husband died.  The two that the family would probably think of first would be the trips we took.  The first one was an LDS Church History trip.  I, four of the kids, and a young man who was a friend of my son got in the van and drove to Winter Quarters and points East.  It was the year of the Mormon Trek re-enactment.  We sang songs, were silly, ate way too many Pop Tarts for breakfast and drove each other crazy, but it was so much fun.  It was also a spiritual experience that affected us all very deeply.

The other thing we did was a trip to the Grand Canyon.  This time one of my two daughters friends came.  It was great.  Lots of silliness involved and we have the home movie to prove it.  I think the jist is spend time together.  Enjoy each other!  Expect silliness and some conflict, but do it.  Pull together, good times or bad and never be afraid to say "I love you."

Marsha and Richard
I have thought about this all week to try to determine what might have influenced their relationship.  I realize that as young children they were close and played well with each other.  Then in the late grade school years there was a lot of bickering and contention between them.  This seemed to resolve in the Junior High and High School years as they shared activities and I have to say that they do love to get together as adults and do so every chance they get.

I think that working and playing together probably made a difference.  We have a large yard and often we spent Saturday or Monday evening working together to get it mowed, raking grass, etc.  Saturday mornings were always spent doing our Saturday chores to maintain our home.  The children shared bedrooms which I think is very important.  That gave them opportunities to share as they went to sleep and learn to work together as they grew.  We always had breakfast and dinner together which was a perfect time for sharing.  We did not participate in activities that infringed upon the dinner hour and my husband was always home right at 6 o clock.  If a child arrived at home after 6 he was assigned the dishes.  Otherwise, these tasks were performed by whomever had been previously assigned for the week.  Cleaning the kitchen was also a shared activity.  Our evenings were quiet times spent at home with the younger children.  Once it was dark we were inside together unless we had other obligations.  In the summer, play time was extended into the evening until dark because of the  hot summer days, however we had a "quiet time" after lunch.  The children came home for lunch in the summer and stayed in for a couple of hours which gave them more opportunities to play together and avoid the heat of the day.

Though our budget was very limited, our Dad was a skier so we made spring break trips to Utah, stayed with relatives and skied together.  Those long trips in the car gave more opportunities for the children to play games, visit and share. (No seat belts were used at that time, which made this easy.)  We didn't do any of these things on purpose to bond the children, they were just how we lived our lives.  Of course, FHE was a constant and scripture study before breakfast.  As adults we gather frequently on Sunday evenings or for birthdays, holidays, or whenever a relative comes into town.   We also plan times to get together for a vacation every couple of years.  Lots of times they have been ski trips.  This past summer we all went to Aspen Grove.  Because of our frequent gatherings the cousins are very close and are often the push to get us to gather, so they can be together. Family has always been an important priority.

Barbara and Daniel
Probably the thing that we did to bring our family together was to do things as a family.  We went on vacations together.  The mountains were close so we spent many family home evenings cooking dinner in the mountains.  We lived on a half acre and had a family activity place in a zoned yard for activities.   A walk-out basement provided an indoor area for play.  Three zones outside provided for soccer, badmitton, and lawn games in the upper yard, swings and a ground level trampoline on the lower level, and a tennis court on the east end of the yard.  Later on we had a fire pit in the north end of the lot. The tennis court could also be used for basketball, a favorite with the boys in our family.

Perhaps you'll ask about work experiences at a later date, but we think that the paper route that we had for almost 20 years was a booster for relationships.  As each boy had the responsibility of the paper route, he called on the girls to help fold and deliver, especially the Sunday papers.  The girls were substitutes when their brothers went on scout trips.  Our daughter even had the paper route for two or three years by herself so she could fund her dancing and other creative pursuits, and the morning route did not keep her from the many activities in which she was involved.  Despite some occasional complaining about the early hours from the youngest son who didn't have siblings to help him, the paper route became an avenue of family pride.

Attending siblings' performances was another way relationships were fostered and cemented.  In spite of not really caring about "The Nutcracker,"  Our daughter's brothers would attend performances from the time she was a soldier up until she danced "Spanish" as a teenager.  This daughter's sister's fiancee (who came from a family of all boys) was embarrassed when he saw what the men wore in "The Nutcracker," but he realized how important it was to support his fiancee's family members.

Now a favorite activity is siblings just talking around the island in the kitchen whenever we get together.  It is a great source of satisfaction to us as parents to see this taking place.


We forgot to list the most important thing our family always did together.  We all went to church together. Even on vacations we planned on finding a local ward or branch to go to.  This is what we did on Sunday, it was expected.  Our children, now, continue to go to church with their children.  It is expected.  That's what we do on Sunday.

Karen and Lance
We think that from the time they were small we encouraged them to "get along". We don't recall too much "trouble" between them all as they had others who would soften the "blow", they would leave the situation and go to the other sibling/s. There were some of the same trials between them, as other families have, but not mean things. Teenage years were about the same as when they were younger.  We had a boy, then a girl, then a boy all the way to the last. That last one took the girl's turn and I think that the separation of about four years in between each sex might have made a difference also. No one had to cling to his or her's close brother or sister. We always had FHEvening and figured out the week so as not to have too many conflicts in schedules as they grew older.

We ate dinner together as a family and were able to talk to our children about their experiences.  We took the time to play catch and shoot baskets with the children.  Any activity our children were involved with, we were there most of the time.  Family vacations together were always the highlight of the year.  The children were able to hike, swim together, and enjoy Ranger campfires.

Dad had custody of his two older children, a boy and a girl from a divorce, that we raised together as our, not as his, children. They were 6 years and 9 years when we started our married life together and so as they grew we could catch the problem for the younger children before it cropped up, kind of our "older practice children". If these two got into something we did not approve of, and those were just small things we hadn't anticipated, at least we could catch it before it began with the younger ones, sooner. We think that helped a lot. They are all such good friends now and seeing them interact makes us happy that they are all such good friends.  

We love comments with reader thoughts. Thanks!


  1. Our two girls, now 24 and 22, have grown up in their own unique, individual ways, just as my younger sister Ruth and I tried so hard to do. My mom is an identical twin, my aunt died of cancer in 2000, with no kids, and they wanted us to wear look-alike clothes, etc.. Not fair, or fun. Joe and I tried to be careful to never make "mirror-image" comparisons, as in "Can't you behave more like your sister?" or like so-and-so? Comparing can be harmful, though they should have positive role models and examples and good ambitions. Even twins are unique!

    As parents instruct and guide kids in wisdom and love, accept and support their individual and unique styles, gifts, views, and personal choices, children develop healthy self-esteem and confidence.
    I'm a first-born with OCD perfectionism, so I taught our kids that no, their bedrooms don't need to be 'perfectly' cleaned, things do not have to be so 'perfect', but they can achieve near-perfection in some things and strive for doing their best. A good, confident child does not need pressure to always be perfect.

    Joe and I were always out hiking with our kids on trails and camping, spending family time in the outdoors teaching survival, environmental stewardship, to respect all of God's creation. We had so many fun times together!
    As the stricter parent, I would not permit our girls to quarrel, insult, or any name-calling or labeling, "Build each other up, don't tear each other down." They are still best friends!

  2. Those were some great thoughts. So many mentioned that they welcomed their kids friends in their homes and into their family activities...especially those that they didn't approve of. Love that.

    1. I loved the thoughts about kids' friends too! What amazing parents to be so welcoming to their kids' friends. I want to be more like that. I was amazed at the all-nighter prom thing too. Wow.

  3. Addition to Jo Lynne and Joe: For about eleven years, Joe worked graveyard shifts, and worked overtime occasionally on Saturdays, so we did not have traditional Family Home Evenings. Our family nights were often on Sundays, we talked and walked, played games, read stories, etc.. If Mondays are not ideal, schedule other days for family nights to enjoy time together.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Jo Lynne! I like learning more about your family!

  4. This comment is from Glenda: Two things impressed me: 1. Help the children to understand their individualism. Especially the middle child. He/she may have a hard time figuring out who they are. I think Crystalyn does an excellent job of helping Cameron figure out that he is the cowboy in the family. Taylor is the book worm in the family. They are not in competition with each other. 2. Making the home the hub where the friends can go to hang out.

  5. I loved these thoughts! I so want to be the parents who's kids want to bring the party home. Any ideas as how to do this without purchasing the expensive toys? I know the toys help, but even without the foosball table, and etc., there must be something else to get them to party at home. Any ideas?

    1. Great question. My best ideas would be good snacks and a fun personality. Anybody else?

  6. Definately shacks, but last fall I bought a backyard badminton set that was $30. Also we have a Wii, but only use the sports or dance variety. There are well stocked game closets of twister and etc. Bean bags for the TV room. Really you could do well with the basics and just an open attitude. It is more about who is there than what.


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