Keeping family peace

[attach]5044[/attach]Julia Rosefield’s eldest daughter, 9-year-old Amahria, has a solution to stop the rate of everyday spats between herself and her two younger siblings in their home near Don Mills Road.

No more babies,” Rosefield laughs. “That’s her declaration.”

While Amahria hasn’t said that she wishes she were an only child, Rosefield says she isn’t fond of sharing her parents’ time and attention with her 5-year-old brother Tate and 4-year-old sister Leia.

“She’s very protective and loving with them, but at the same time she grew accustomed to having me to herself,” says Rosefield. “Obviously, that had to change with two younger ones coming in.”

Rosefield helps tame her daughter’s jealousy by providing Amahria with more attention when she can and explaining matters when she can’t.

“I know she has moments where she wishes I could attend to her right away,” Rosefield says. “I just try to explain to her why I can’t always do that because her siblings are very young and require more attention than she does at times. Afterwards, she’s usually pretty understanding.”

Rosefield might be one of the more fortunate parents.

Sometimes an older sibling will sporadically misbehave in order to reclaim their parents’ attention, says Margaret Hicks, a therapist specializing in families.

“It’s pretty well-known that children who act out want attention,” she says. “And it can get very frustrating for parents who have more than one child and are dealing with their individual needs.”

Hicks says a logical solution is to focus on the child wanting the most recognition.

“There’s often one child that’s bugging the parent more than the others,” Hicks says. “Sometimes parents will scold that child, giving them negative attention. But it’s better to focus more positively on that one. Set aside some special time with them and try to talk things over about how they’re behaving.”

But Hicks points out that not all sibling fights are a cry for attention.

“Kids fight and sometimes its best to let them work it through,” she says. “At certain stages in their lives, the fighting might be more heightened, but it might also allow them to become closer friends later on because they’ve managed to work through so many disagreements together.”

Sibling conflicts in the Rosefield home often arise when the etiquette of sharing is desired — particularly when young Leia takes her older siblings’ toys.

“It ruffles their feathers a bit when she does that,” Rosefield says. “But when they take her stuff, it’s a complete meltdown of tears.”

When this happens, Rosefield intercedes.

“If two or all of them want the same toy, I would let one of them have it for 10 minutes and then let another have it for the same amount of time and so forth,” she says.

Despite their disagreements, Rosefield says she’s grateful that her children aren’t physically aggressive with one another.

“Although parents can’t fight all their child’s battles, there comes a point when they need to guard the ones that need protection,” says Hicks.

If a parent witnesses offensive, bullying behaviour or if they see one of their children ganging up on another, Hicks says they have to intervene and lay ground rules as to what is acceptable and what’s not.

After tackling her childrens’ current displays of jealousy and sullenness, Rosefield awaits what is to come.

“In my mind, it’s just starting,” she says. “I can definitely see it with the girls as they get caught up with similar things like clothes and accessories … It can only escalate from here.”

As children age, they discover their individual strengths whether it be in sports, academics or the arts, says Hicks.

“The parent should support those strengths, but take caution not to label their children,” Hicks says.

If they label their kids by saying “he’s the sporty one” or “she’s the artistic one,” Hicks says that risks holding their children back.

“For instance, one sibling might be interested in sports but may be reluctant to participate because the parent has built up another child in the family as being athletic,” she says. “The best thing to do is to encourage a child in their individual pursuits without comparing them to their siblings.”