The Scrapbook

How Do You Coach Siblings Through Conflict?

Don’t jump in too soon

While it’s tempting to jump in and resolve conflict between our kids, with a little bit of time and dialogue we can create an opportunity that teaches them tools for naming their feelings, problem-solving and resolving their differences in the future. 

Being a referee is one less job we need to be doing, so it’s worth setting an expectation that when our kids are old enough to do so, they have to try to resolve their own disagreements and issues using learnt communication skills. Sure, conflict resolution for kids is a marathon, not a sprint, but you’ve got to think of the long game!

Here, we’re sharing some practical ideas for coaching siblings through conflict we picked up from an Instagram Live chat we did with the fabulous Emily Hanlon, Clinical Psychologist, otherwise known as The Playful Psychologist. So, if you are wondering how to stop your kids from fighting, Emily has given us a good place to start!

3 tips for coaching siblings through conflict

  1. Resist the urge to jump in and fix it – Making kids apologise and separating them can be a short-term solution but underlying issues can remain unresolved and they miss a chance to learn from the experience of finding a resolution after conflict.

  2. Validate both their feelings – This might sound like, “I can see you were feeling really angry when you hit your brother, am I right? ... Your brother is upset, too. How are you feeling about the situation?” Explore and validate the feelings and emotional experience of both children and have them witness this taking place for one another. Both of their experiences are of equal value and each child needs to feel they have been seen and heard.

  3. Create a solution together by asking each ... “What can we do to make the situation better? What do you need?” Now it is your role to be authoritative in working with them to determine a solution that is appropriate for the situation. You can check in with them about how they feel about that and if they understand. It might be a good time to help them with coping strategies to calm down if they are still feeling upset and emotional.

“Kids can really surprise you with the solutions they come up with for their own problems when they’re asked. The problem is, as adults, we don’t usually ask them.”

– Emily Hanlon, Clinical Psychologist