An interview with parenting expert, Adele Faber, co-author with Elaine Mazlish of the best-selling, Siblings Without Rivalry and, How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk. Adele speaks about the importance of listening to and validating kids feelings about their siblings, no matter how uncomfortable they make us. She uses the analogy of how you would feel if your spouse brought home another wife, or another husband who you were expected to care for and share your things with. She models empathic responses that parents can give to their children’s anger, jealousy and even hatred of their siblings. She also acknowledges that it is common and normal to find yourself more drawn to one of your children, and that the feelings alone are not hurtful to your child. She offers helpful ways to behave such that the unique gifts of each child are seen and celebrated.
An interview with author and professor, Dr. Vernon Wiehe about sibling abuse and how it differs from sibling rivalry. He describes a pattern of frequent victimization of one sibling at the hands of another, usually older sib, with long lasting consequences in the life of the victim. Dr. Wiehe points out that sibling abuse is even more common that domestic violence or child abuse, but is often minimized by parents. He describes ways to prevent it, including not leaving younger children alone in the care of their older siblings if the younger one doesn’t feel safe, talking to children openly about violence and sexuality, setting limits with privacy, listening to children and believing them. He also talks about the now pervasive influence of violent video games and television shows and how violence begets further violence, through modeling and desensitization. He encourages survivors not to waste time looking for an apology from the sibling who abused them, but to pour that energy into seeking healing in therapy.
An interview with researcher and the director of the More Fun with Sisters and Brothers program, Laurie Kramer. Laurie explained that siblings don’t only feel rivalry and competition, they also have times of fun and connection. She suggested that parents attempts at conflict resolution often result in separating the kids. Rather than minimizing conflict which will be ubiquitous, Dr. Kramer argues that parents should find ways to increase the amount of time spent in having fun together. It is the ration of fun to conflict that matters most. Her program teaches siblings core skills of taking each other’s perspective, managing their own strong emotions and not assuming the worst about the other’s intention. She teaches kids to Stop-Think and Talk as a way to get out of conflict. She also teaches sibs ways to engage in play with each other that is fun.
An interview with psychotherapist and author, Dr. Jeanne Safer about chronic sibling tension and non-communication. Jeanne describes the phenomenon of “sibspeak” where no real communication takes place except the recitation of grievances, the discharge of obligations, and endless attempts to fix the other person. She encourages sibs to take the initiative in naming what is going on directly and asking about the feelings and experiences of each other. She especially talks about the challenges facing siblings when there was blatant favoritism from the parents. She encourages the favored sibling to acknowledge the advantages they received and the fact that they took it for granted as deserved. She encourages the less favored sibling not to let this fact define them as righteous and resentful victims, but to focus on the ways they do indeed have enough in the present. She closes with a description of how Freud overlooked his own favored position as a sibling, a favoritism he felt entitled to and could not examine or apologize for. His blindspot became a blindspot in therapy, where sibling relationships (the longest of our lives) are often overlooked for the deep ways they shape our relational dynamics. Jeanne’s new book is Cain’s Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of rage, shame, secrecy and regret.