Do your children like each? How do you feel when they fight and argue? As a mother I feel it is important that when my children grow up they will be there for each other. That when one is stuck or upset they can pick up the phone or whatever is the most appropriate form of communication in 10+ years time, and know the person on the other end will be there for them. Or when they have wonderful news they do the same. That when they have something to celebrate they can do so with each other. That together they have a supportive community. Because if they can’t do this, why do we create families?
Wow, this a lot of expectation to put on children who are still growing up and developing their communication and interaction skills.
When I stop and look at my thinking behind these expectations I can hear thoughts like “My children should get on.” If they don’t get on now, they will not have anything to do with each other in the future”. “I am a terrible mother (and psychologist) because I can’t make my children like each other”.
Does thinking like this make me feel good? Does it support me in my goal of creating the best family I can? No, of course not. These are examples of distorted/unhelpful thinking. If I keep thinking like this I’m going to lose my optimism and hope.
There are many types of distorted thinking.. Noticing them may not change the fact that my children are arguing, but it gives me space to take a breath and make some decisions about how I want to react (or not react to the situation). This will vary depending on the age of the siblings, the issue, location, history, individual temperament, parenting philosophy etc. As a parent when you are able to notice and pause it gives you a chance to tap into your own parenting wisdom.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy.. If you are experiencing stress please contact your GP or mental health professional.
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.