Anyone who has grown up with at least one sibling or who has more than one child knows that sibling rivalry is a common part of childhood and adolescence. Sibling rivalry isn't just about who has the most toys. In fact, it tends to peak when siblings are somewhere between 10 and 15. It can, unfortunately, continue well into adulthood.
It shouldn't be surprising that parental divorce can exacerbate rivalries and tensions between brothers and sisters. That's why part of divorcing parents' responsibility to keep their kids as emotionally unscathed by the break-up as possible is to notice and deal with worsening sibling rivalry. To do that, it's essential to recognize the main causes of divorce-related sibling conflicts.
This is a key factor. Kids whose parents are divorcing face fear and uncertainty about their future. It's no wonder that arguments and even fights with siblings become more frequent and intense.
One way to prevent this is for you and your co-parent to model good behavior. Show your kids that you can have disagreements and continue to show mutual respect. After all, you're still a family.
Many kids blame themselves for their parents' break-up. When they have siblings, it's easy to turn that blame outward. If a brother never cleans his room, maybe that tore their parents apart. If a sister needed expensive orthodonture, perhaps that did it. Kids often think that way.
That's why parents need to assure their kids that the break-up had nothing to do with any of them. Just as you don't want to speak negatively about your co-parent in front of your kids, you shouldn't complain about one child to another one.
Competing for Attention
If kids already felt they had to compete for their parents' attention, that competition often increases when their parents aren't together anymore. It's difficult enough for parents to make sure that they're giving an only child enough attention after a separation. Dealing with multiple kids can be far more challenging.
One parent may have more in common with one child than another. Further, one child may be more vocal about his or her need for attention. It's crucial to make sure that none of your kids feels left out.
It may be worthwhile to seek the help of a child or family therapist to help minimize the emotional harm to your kids and help them maintain a healthy relationship with their siblings. Your family law attorney can likely recommend someone. Further, he or she can help you work out a parenting plan to ensure the best possible custody and visitation arrangements for all of your kids.
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