That is the number of miles we traveled this summer on our epic tour of the west. Yes, 5,885 miles where every member of our family was within 3 feet of each other. 16 days of traveling in a car or hiking through God’s beautiful creation. 15 days sleeping within arm’s distance of each other. 45 meals shared together. And at the end of this amazing trip we still liked each other, really we did! We didn’t care to get back into the car for a few days, but we walked away cherishing the time spent together. Some would say it was a miracle. We say it is how we live on the daily.
When we talked about our adventure with friends and neighbors many responded with the question of “How did you do it and not kill each other?!?” Several of our friends launched into the many reasons their own family would not survive a trip with such close quarters. Many stated their kids would kill each other or they would kill them because of the complaining or arguing.
I can say that our kids love each other, and actually like each other most of the time too. “Close Knit Family” is one of our core values, and this trip confirmed that we have succeeded in our goal. But how did we get here?
If you have a sibling, you know that getting along isn’t easy or even natural. For some of you there is hurt and wounds that cause you to put up walls with your siblings or family. Others have experienced the joy and comfort of having siblings or parents at the ready to come comfort or celebrate, whichever is needed. Still others would say their relationship with their siblings or family is neutral: neither good or bad, just there.
After the third conversation we had with friends, we started to ponder why our kids get along so well. At the dinner table one night we decided to just ask them. Their insights were beautiful and deep. Today I am going to share with you their answers to why they get along so well.
They love each other. We have a saying in our house: “Your siblings are the only friends you have guaranteed for life. Friends come and go, but family is forever.” Because of that we commit to work on this relationship the most. When you make the commitment to love, you naturally grow in your love for that person. You don’t allow the little things to bother you and instead offer forgiveness and grace. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Siblings have the power to bring you huge amounts of joy and also to be the most annoying person you have ever been around. You can actually experience both of those in the same afternoon! Our children have practice the skill of making boundaries with their siblings. They have been given permission to walk away and take the time to cool off before coming back and resolving the situation. They have been given a space to retreat, refresh and rejuvenate away from their siblings so they can come back in a better mental and emotional space. The kids like that they have the right and ability to say no or to ask another sibling to stop. A healthy relationship doesn’t mean that you have to always do what the other wants or be walked all over. They appreciated that we helped to make sure their siblings honored their no and their boundaries.
Know your Role
Your job is to be a sibling and friend not a parent and judge. Some siblings will have to set aside their burning desire to make sure their siblings obey, do things correctly or get the justice that they deserve. A healthy relationship gives the responsibility of training and discipline to the parents. Now this gets tricky if an older sibling is babysitting but it is important that the sibling takes that hat off when mom or dad are home.
It is also important to recognize and believe each person is needed in the family and no one is more important than the other. There doesn’t need to be any competition for value or love. Everyone plays a significant role in the family.
They make the conscious choice to prioritize time with their siblings. If it has been a few days and they haven’t had any quality time together they make room in their schedule to make it happen. Whether it is a card game or getting out the rollerblades they do something together.
Our oldest is two years away from leaving for college, she has realized her time with her siblings is slowly dwindling, so she evaluates her schedule and figures out time to spend with her brothers.
To have a healthy relationship you have to put aside your own needs and wants. Often what your siblings want to do, is not what you want to do. While there is time for compromise and getting what you want, more often than not it is important to lay down your own preferences so that you can serve your siblings. They shared several examples of times when they played a game or did an activity they did not want to do, and they actually ended up having more fun than they expected.
It is also important to choose to not let the little things bother you. Forgiveness and grace are key to a close knit relationship. It is also important to remember one day you will need it too.
Don’t force it
Any time you force something to happen, it turns out to be a bust. Whether it induces anger or resentment, forcing your sibling to hang out with you doesn’t work. It is important to correctly evaluate your sibling so that you know when to push through or back off. Waiting a few minutes or hours to do something is worth it if it leads to a better bonding moment with your sibling.
Humor is key to a healthy relationship. Laughter and joy are needed, but it has to be the right humor that isn’t at the expense of one another. Tearing others down for the sake of a good laugh is not worth it. Humor should be used to build each other up or bring you closer, not tear you apart. Fun nicknames, family quotes, and inside jokes are a must! This is like the oil that keeps the family gears turning smoothly.
Go on adventures together. It could be an epic road trip, or it could be simply exploring the creek in your back yard. Do things together as a family and do them often.
A good relationship with your sibling is a choice. A choice you have to constantly make and remake. We all make mistakes and in the end we have to decide if the relationship is worth fighting for. Let’s choose today to make building your kid’s relationship with each other a priority.
What would you say is needed in a good, healthy and fun relationship with siblings? What’s your secret? We’d love to know!
Is this how your siblings make you feel?