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Siblings Helping Siblings

siblings helping siblings

When siblings get along, you get a very cool symbiotic relationship where siblings help each other. In this picture, for example, Emma (six years old) is helping Anna (four months old in the picture) by reading her a story. Anna is learning language from her sister reading, and she loves seeing Emma point out all the details in the pictures. In exchange, Anna is helping Emma by making her feel important, helpful, and by giving her something to do while she waits for the bus!

Here are few other symbiotic sibling relationships I see in our home:

  • One child calming down a sibling – could be any combination of my kids, including baby Anna. The calming child is developing empathy and resourcefulness as they brainstorm creative ways to help). The child who was upset sees that someone cares about them, and can understand their point of view.
  • Older children helping younger children get a snack or get dressed. The older child enjoys the responsibility and “being in charge.” The younger sibling gets to tell the older sibling what they want/need.
  • Older children teaching skills (baby school and Emma helping five-year-old Johnny with his reading come quickly to mind; I’ve seen all three of my “big” kids exchange drawing tips with one another, and three-year-old Lily regularly “reads” books to her baby sister by narrating the storyline). Teaching is a great way to reinforce a skill, and the child being taught gains new knowledge. Patience can also be developed through the process of teaching or learning from a sibling.

What symbiotic sibling relationships have you seen in your home?

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

36 thoughts on “Siblings Helping Siblings”

  1. Elisa | blissfulE

    I try to wait to intervene and often I get to watch my kids work things out amongst themselves. My favourite moments are when I see two or more of them cuddled up “reading” together.

  2. This is such a beautiful post – I absolutely love the way you approach sibling relationships and foster such a healthy family environment. When we first had our second baby, having my not quite 2 year-old (at the time) help by getting diapers and such was so important to building a connection between him and the baby and helping him feel important to the family at a time when a new baby can grab a lot of attention.

    1. Thank you, Jen. I think that having an older sibling help can make them feel important and help them find their new role within the family.

    1. I hope it doesn’t make you too sad. There are benefits to being an only child, as well, and you do a wonderful job of providing Anna with amazing opportunities.

  3. I don’t know if it could be called a symbiotic relationship but my girls have been doing a lot of role playing – they take turns being the big sister and the baby and they get really into whatever role they are playing. That picture of Anna and Emma is stunning.

  4. On rare occasions, I see siblings sticking up for other siblings at school or other places where the kid might need support. It’s not usually bullying but I am confident my kids would protect their siblings, but sometimes a misunderstanding or too rough play when my son ends up crying.

  5. It truly is beautiful to watch children get along so well. I was the oldest child in my family and my younger siblings and I were always playing sports together. I taught them how to play soccer and basketball. You are totally right about feeling “in charge” and responsible, I remember feeling so important when I taught my siblings different ways to practice. Anyways, great post!

  6. Varya @ littleartists

    It’s so nice when siblings are willing to help younger ones! My older daughter loves the baby and wants to play with her, however at times she underestimates her own weight and energy and ends up doing something not so careful. I hope they grow up loving and caring for each other

  7. Hmmm……. I’m sure I’ve seen lots, but am drawing a blank right now. They tend to really play well off of each other in regards to helping with chores.

  8. It is such a joy to see your children helping each other. Sometimes I have to have a hand in making it happen, but as with everything it becomes second nature for them, it’s just being part of a family.

  9. I cringe as I write this because I have always been against gender stereotypes but I wonder if girls have a more natural affinity towards helping their younger siblings. When my second was born Kiddo showed zero interest in helping to take care of his brother, but his female peers loved the baby!
    Usually the only thing that works for me is to remind Kiddo how awesome his little brother thinks he is, and even then…. But when the rare moment happens I am quick to say “thank you for helping!” to him.

    1. I don’t know…maybe it is temperament? My 3 year old son just dotes on his little sis. Loves cuddling her and bringing her toys. His (girl) cousin isn’t much of a helper with her little sis. They are the same ages give or take a few weeks.

        1. My oldest son never really showed any interest in caring for or helping his younger siblings until our youngest was born (they are 14 years apart!), but Collin (8) loves to help his younger sisters, especially Kate (16 months), so I think it has a lot more to do with individual personality than gender. Of course, I am basing this on two boys, so who knows!

          1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I wonder if there is something with ages as well? Most of the little boys in Johnny’s preschool class (4 and 5 years old) LOVE Anna, and the girls rarely talk to her. And Johnny certainly adores her. Emma wasn’t really interested in babies until Anna showed up. Lily has always loved babies – including when she was one herself!

  10. This post makes me feel so much better! I tend to focus too much on the fighting that goes on, but actually they are doing all of this as well, which I guess means they are not fighting as much as I think.

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