When I started having kids, I had some goals.
Usually of the spiritual, academic and well-mannered kind.
But there has been something that has become increasingly important to me over the years.
And that is the development of friendships among my children.
My two brothers and I are dear friends. Love them dearly, in contact with them often, count them among my dearest friends.
I want that for my kids, for their relationships with each other.
And I haven’t a clue as to how it developed with my brothers and me. I just always remember them being, yes, my bratty little brothers, but also my friends.
So I think about it a lot. The relationships between my kids. I want it to be more than just tolerating each other or not pestering each other~~though, those have been lofty goals at times and in certain seasons.
Nothing warms my mama heart like that photo above, taken yesterday during Easter. To see my four oldest kids, laughing, teasing, playing, enjoying each other. As friends.
I wish I had some recipe to share, some powerful wisdom. I don’t. But I do have some observations about sibling friendships, some ideas that I do think have helped foster friendships amongst the people who live in this house.
1. Talk about friendship as the ultimate goal.
I often talk with my kids about the joy of having your siblings also be your dear friends. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, a lot of holidays. You might as well enjoy them. To that end, what occurs while they live in my home will go a long way toward adult friendships or frenemies. The seeds they sow into these relationships now will yield a harvest of connection or a failed crop of unresolved animosity. Friendship. It’s a goal.
2. Remind them that the tools they use in their outside-of-family-friendships are effective within the family as well.
If you don’t find it profitable to yell at your school friends, it’s not going to work with your siblings either. If you don’t like being bullied, neither will your siblings. And if you expect your friends to be loyal and loving, then you will need to be as well if you want to have your siblings as friends.
3. Coach. And coach. And coach.
We seem to have some notion that family friendships just kinda sorta happen. That somehow you’re just born knowing how to be siblings. But I don’t think so. I think it has to be deliberate. And so I coach my kids. And remind them of friendship protocols.
4. Laugh. Have fun.
We don’t keep our home super duper clean. I’m pretty hopeless at keeping the kids on a good chore schedule. The laundry is not caught up and the interior of our van is nasty. But we as a family laugh. Oh, do we laugh. We have fun. And I’m convinced it’s the bonding glue of our friendships with one another. We truly, truly enjoy one another. It’s more important to me that we laugh every day than if we get all the floors clean. As you would see, were you to come hang out at our house. The bathrooms would disgust you, the laughs would make you giggle.
5. Know when to get out of the way.
Ultimately, my kids have to decide if relationships with their siblings are important to them. I can’t make them like each other and I can’t make them have relationships. And I tell them that. I tell them that it is ultimately their decision if they want relationship with their brothers and sisters. While they live in our home, they will be kind, they will be polite, they will be supportive. And then, it’s up to them. If I’m the only one trying, that’s not indicative of a true friendship among them. I can’t be the nexus of their connection. They have to ultimately form those bonds outside of me.
6. By example.
My kids see my brothers and I laugh until we cry, call each other all the time, text, talk, chat and laugh some more. We make an effort to see each other, even though we are scattered across the country. They see our friendship in action. And if you find yourself in a situation where relationships with your adult siblings are fractured, let your kids know that it would mean so much to count your siblings as friends.
7. The only child.
My mom is an only child. But she does have a sibling, of sorts. Her cousin is like a sister to her, the devoted niece to my grandmother and my mom’s childhood confidant and friend. If you are an only child or you are raising an only child, choose yourself some family. Love and nurture those relationships. And teach your child to do the same. I didn’t have a sister by birth. But I am blessed, blessed, blessed to have those women in my life, women who have been with me through thick and thin who are not just friends, but are my sisters.
8. Pray. A lot.
We pray for our kids’ outside friendships, for their schooling, for their future mates, for their destinies. But what of their relationships with each other? Do we pray that those relationships will last long beyond the time they are tucked in at night under our roofs? They are only in our keeping and care such a short while and then we launch them, hearts in our throats, into a wide world. Their future relationships with each other are worth some prayer. I want it to live beyond this season in our home.