If you grew up with siblings, then you probably know how amazing it can be. They're your best friends for life, from childhood through adulthood. There are no people in the world who understand you and your story quite like your siblings, because they lived the same story as you did! We cherish our relationships with our siblings (even if it did take some years for us to truly appreciate them, ha!). And if you have more than one child, then you're probably marveling at watching those relationships develop as they grow up together, too. But having siblings is about so much more than just having a built-in best friend. Growing up with siblings can actually make you a better person!
We all know how important interpersonal relationships are for child development. And while we as parents work at helping our children develop every single day, sometimes other relationships play an equally important role. Research shows that a child's relationship with their brothers and sisters can dramatically affect their development. Researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Calgary found that older siblings can help boost their younger sibling's language skills and development, and also help their understanding of other people's points of view and minds.
But it goes beyond things like language development. Sibling relationships are key for the development of empathy and understanding. By observing their siblings being kind, compassionate people, children grow up with that skill set, which leads them to be kind, compassionate adults. Researchers study empathy by observing how children respond to others who are pretending to be upset when they were injured, scared, or upset over the loss of a cherished item.
But they can remove the adult interaction, and instead study the empathetic behavior between kids. So we're able to see that it's not just mom and dad who help the development of these important skills - it's brothers and sisters, too.
Older and younger siblings can be models for child development and the development of empathy, respect, and understanding. It's easy to see sibling relationships as rivalry or competition, especially in the early years.
But it's important to remember that our kids are learning valuable skills from the people close to them, and that includes their brothers and sisters.