Therapeutic Interventions

1. Verbalize empathy for the child's feelings of insecurity and fears of loss of attention or affection to a sibling and give reassurance of the continuation of a strong, positive parent/child relationship. (1, 2, 3)

1. Assist the parents in listing each child's fears and feelings of inadequacy that contribute to sibling jealousy (e.g., reduced time with parents, loss of favored status in family).

2. Define empathy and discuss its critical role in the prevention and resolution of sibling conflicts.

3. Brainstorm with the parents a list of affirmations they can give each child to enhance self-confidence (or assign the "Affirming Each Child's Uniqueness" activity from the

2. Recognize the warning signals of potential sibling conflict before it begins to escalate. (4, 5, 6)

3. Verbalize an awarness of the child's negative feelings toward siblings as a normal part of learning to share family resources and developing empathy. (7, 8)

Parenting Skills Homework Planner by Knapp).

4. Teach the parents to anticipate the thoughts, feelings, and actions of each child prior to the outbreak of a conflict and to encourage the positive efforts of each sibling to de-escalate the dispute.

5. Assign the parents to read a story to the children involving sibling rivalry (e.g., Pain and the Great One by Blume and Trivas or I'd Rather Have an Iguana by Mario) and discuss with the siblings how empathy and communication can prevent conflicts.

6. Assist the parents in recognizing and addressing their own personal underlying scripts, behaviors, thought processes, and dysfunctional interactions that are contributing to the sibling rivalry (e.g., comparing the siblings, encouraging sibling competition).

7. Advise the parents of the importance of providing time for emotional expression; council them to actively listen to each child's feelings concerning sibling conflict without taking sides.

8. Assign the parents and siblings to create a list of family resources (e.g., attention, emotional and financial support); discuss how each family member contributes to and utilizes the family assets (or assign the "Sharing the Family

4. Verbalize the belief that parental love and recognition are abundant resources that can be shared by all of the siblings without any child being deprived. (9, 10, 11)

5. List methods of resolving sibling conflict fairly and positively. (12, 13, 14)

Resources" activity from the Parenting Skills Homework Planner by Knapp).

9. Assist the parents in writing a definition of unconditional love (e.g., constant love given regardless of personal attributes or performance); assign them to list examples in their personal journal.

10. Ask the parents and siblings to list the benefits of developing a close relationship with all family members (e.g., gaining help and support, increased family harmony); then brainstorm methods of improving family interactions among the parents and siblings (e.g., stop put-downs, don't interrupt, share).

11. Assign the parents and the siblings to draw a large heart and paste a picture of each family member in it to illustrate that the heart's capacity to love is great.

12. Council the parents that interference in sibling disputes often intensifies the conflict; instruct them to involve themselves as a coach rather than a referee.

13. Teach the parents a basic process to assist the siblings in resolving disputes: (1) State the problem, (2) listen to the other's point of view, (3) share feelings about the problem,

(4) brainstorm ideas for solving the problem, and (5) agree to a solution and implement it.

6. Diffuse sibling rivalry and strengthen the bonds between siblings through positive recognition, fair treatment, and awareness of personal feelings. (15, 16)

7. Recognize the individual personality, needs, sensitivities, goals, and aspirations of each child and work to reduce competition between the siblings. (17, 18)

Attend a parenting class or read literature on the topic of sibling rivalry, its causes and cures. (19, 20)

14. Assign parents to read Help! The Kids Are at It Again (Crary and Katayama) for an understanding of how to use sibling disputes to teach problem solving.

15. Encourage the parents to reinforce positive behavior from all siblings and administer discipline to each in an even-handed and logical manner.

16. Assign the parents to use the criterion of "unique" rather than "equal" in the distribution of love, attention, time and physical needs (e.g., "I love you each uniquely.").

17. Instruct the parents to use descriptive rather than comparative words when addressing either a positive or negative behavior (e.g., "I see you're finished with you're homework." versus "You've finished your homework and your brother hasn't even started.").

18. Assign the parents to affirm the efforts of each child based on individual merit and never in comparison to the accomplishment or failure of a sibling.

19. Refer the parents to a parenting group that addresses the topic of sibling rivalry (e.g., Siblings Without Rivalry Workshop Kit by Faber and Mazlish).

20. Assign parents to read How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk (Faber and Mazlish) and Siblings Without Rivalry (Faber and

9. Establish a pro-active system of positive discipline that is balanced with love and designed to promote healthy self-esteem and responsible behavior. (21, 22, 23)

10. Divide the family workload and discuss responsibilities and other family issues in a family forum. (24)

11. Encourage the child to use dramatization or drawing to express feelings about siblings and family interactions. (25, 26)

Mazlish) to learn strategies to promote positive sibling relationships.

21. Ask parents to read a book on parent/child interaction (e.g., Parent Talk by Moorman); discuss how the strategies can help in managing sibling disharmony.

22. Suggest that the parents use disciplinary interventions that promote cooperation between siblings (e.g., require the disputing siblings to work together on a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle).

23. Instruct the parents to require that the siblings role play a more positive method of communicating their point of view when they engage in disparaging remarks and put-downs.

24. Council the parents to hold weekly meetings during which family chores are delegated, family problems are resolved, and recognition is given for the efforts of each family member.

25. Instruct the parents to use role play or mutual story telling with the siblings to help them resolve a conflict using peace-making strategies.

26. Teach the parents to use cartooning (see "Cartooning as a Counseling Approach to a Socially Isolated Child" by Sonntag) to encourage the siblings to illustrate a dispute that has a peaceful outcome.

Establish social outlets or hobbies for each child to develop personal interests and diffuse sibling rivalry issues. (27, 28)

Allow for feelings of acceptance and attachment to evolve slowly and resist the inclination to force an instantly strong relationship among the siblings. (29, 30)

Encourage and participate in activities that involve both total family and one-to-one interaction among family members (31, 32)

Watch for symptoms that the siblings may need professional help to resolve conflict and seek individual therapy if indicated. (33, 34)

27. Council the parents to encourage the children to explore the acquisition of a new hobby or activity that reflects each child's unique interests and talents.

28. Instruct the parents to encourage each child to join a social or interest-related group in school or the community.

29. Assign the parents to record the status of the sibling relationships in a journal to gain an accurate perception of the children's growing bond.

30. Assign the parents and siblings to describe in writing or picture format the evolving nature of the sibling relationships in the past, present, and future.

31. Encourage the parents to plan for a weekly family outing and to enlist the participation of each family member.

32. Assign the parents to engage the each child in a daily activity that strengthens the parent/child bond (e.g., playing games that require interaction, nightly prayers, reciprocal reading).

33. Council the parents to refer the siblings to a group for children dealing with sibling rivalry.

34. Instruct the parents to support the child in managing feelings of frustration experienced as a result of typical sibling rivalry and to arrange for private therapy if the symptoms appear overwhelming.

16. Family members work together to establish a loving respectful, cooperative family atmosphere. (35, 36)

17. Verbalize the dangers of locking family members into negative or rigid roles and work to value each person for their unique contribution to the family unit. (37, 38)

18. Acknowledge progress made toward family peace and harmony. (39)

35. Assign the parents to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families (Covey) to learn how to attain a positive family atmosphere by maintaining a respectful, couple-centered marriage.

36. Assist the parents in terminating any sabotaging that is occurring in the family through open discussions and presenting a united parental front.

37. Teach the parents the damage caused by assigning negative family roles (e.g., bully, untrustworthy, loser) or exclusively positive family roles (e.g., most gifted, athletic, beautiful).

38. Encourage the parents to model and affirm the behavior they hope to bring out in each of their children (e.g., persistence, responsibility) rather than identifying negative traits they wish to eliminate (e.g., giving up, shirking duties).

39. Assign the parents to brainstorm with the family points of pride and unity as well as areas that could be improved to promote positive sibling relationships.

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