The sibling relationship can be one of the most significant of a child’s life

“I gained a lot of weight the summer before middle school and got stretch marks. I was ashamed. While my parents worked, my sister Rebecca took me to the neighbourhood pool. She never said a word about my body. She only said, ‘I love your bathing suit.’ I remember. It meant everything that she chose to look beyond the unsightly marks”.

“In high school, Rebecca would wave me over as I walked down the halls. She would introduce her awkward freshman sister to her senior high friends. She was proud of who I was. She believed in me. My sister never told me I was not capable even if she thought there was no way I could make the volleyball team or move up a chair in orchestra.

“As an adult, my sister showed me the same support. Knowing how much I loved to write, she was adamant that I should start a blog. I said I didn’t know how. She sent me a book telling me how. She said she would help. My sister kept saying I should and I could until I finally tried. I would not be a published author today had it not been for the unconditional love and encouragement I received from my sister. My life would have turned out differently if my sister had routinely torn me down rather than continually build me up.”

We need boundaries that build up, not tear down

In the midst of a sibling-conflict conversation with my older daughter, I realised how important it is for my home to be a safe haven – a place free from hurtful attacks on appearance, intelligence, and abilities. Some might argue that sibling cruelty and belittlement is just part of life.

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I truly believe it doesn’t have to be. In fact, I know first-hand what happens when the person living in your house, the one who knows your every weakness and fault, still believes in you. My life would be very different if my sister Rebecca had chosen to be adversary rather than an ally. Now more than ever, I believe we need boundaries that build up, not tear down. And it should begin in our homes.

-Rachel Macy Stafford, NY Times Bestselling Author & Certified Special Education Teacher

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Siblings can be true allies and champions for each other

I read these words by Rachel on her Hands Free Revolution blog and sat quietly for a long time. The story of sister’s perpetual kindness and support is too uncommon. We are much more accustomed to stories about being teased, taunted, or ignored, by siblings.

But just as scientists need only one exception to a pattern to disprove a theory, Rachel’s story – and others like it – remind us that siblings can be true allies and champions for each other.

The sibling relationship can be one of the most significant of a child’s life. When we understand how to handle normal bickering and jealousy between our children, we can transform what might have been a relationship fraught with jealous and resentment into one that becomes a pillar of strength for each child.

Please join me for my online series on Raising Siblings, with guests including Rachel Macy Stafford, Harville Hendrix, Gretchen Rubin, Laura Markham, Elizabeth Lesser, Michael Gurian, Amy McCready and many more. We’ll cover it all, from managing sibling rivalry to fostering lifelong friendships. Please visit this page to learn more.