WHY DIVORCE CAN INCREASE SIBLING RIVALRY
Sibling rivalry is normal. All brothers and sisters experience some level of conflict. To some degree, it’s even healthy because it teaches children to resolve issues, work out their differences and share. If it becomes emotionally or physically destructive, however, it can have serious long-term ramifications.
Sibling rivalry can escalate when parents break up. Kids’ fights over relatively minor things can become personal and hurtful when their parents divorce. The anxiety and uncertainty they may sense in their parents can cause more and larger flare-ups.
Parents can help minimize the amount of anxiety their kids experience by providing regular reassurance of the things that will remain the same, e.g., their dad coaching their soccer team or their mom driving them to school every morning. You can also help ease your kids’ stress by not arguing in front of them or badmouthing your co-parent to them. In fact, you can be a good example to your kids by showing them that it’s possible to work through differences with someone with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye.
Another cause of sibling rivalry during and after divorce is competition for parental attention. If kids are moving back and forth between homes, they’re likely not getting as much one-on-one time with either parent as they used to. Parents are also likely distracted by issues surrounding the divorce and the changes they, too, are experiencing.
That’s why it’s essential to make sure that none of your kids feels that they aren’t getting the time they need. Some children are more likely to express this than others, so it’s crucial to watch them all for signs they’re feeling neglected.
Another cause of increased sibling rivalry is blame. Kids tend to blame themselves to some extent when their parents divorce. When they have siblings, they may turn that blame on them. That’s why it’s essential for parents to reassure their kids that the divorce has nothing to do with them.
Typically, it’s best to work out a custody arrangement where your kids are together when they’re with one parent or the other. This can help them maintain and build their sibling bond. In some unique instances, a split, or divided, custody arrangement is best. Your family law attorney can help you work towards a custody arrangement that’s best for your children.