Summer Squabbles: Help for sibling rivalry


My twin and I before our 5 y/o dance recital

I recently heard a parent say that the only day better than the day that the kids get out of school for break is the day they go back.  As parents, we long for the relaxed weekends free of projects and the lazy evenings at the pool.  But when school break starts, we end up constantly referreeing kids who seem not to be able to get along for even 5 minutes.

Have you ever taken a vacation with a family you love seeing once or twice a month only to have them get on your last nerve?  The more you spend time together, the more potential there is for irritation and your kids are the same.  You can choose not to vacation with the other family, but your kids are stuck together for better (and there are lots of upsides to having a sibling) or worse.

Here are some ideas to tame the squabble.

1-  Divide and conquer.  Kids love alone time with a parent.  Every activity doesn't have to be a family activity.

2-  Encourage activities that will be fun but with little interaction.  For example, watching a funny movie together.  They can joke later about the movie without having to get along during it.

3-  Focus on the solution.  When both parties come to you with a grievance, encourage them to brainstorm the solution rather than hash out the play by play.

4-  Think twice about throwing the sleeping and eating routine out the window.  When I ask parents what happens before poor behavior, it almost always starts with a tired or hungry child.

5-  Alone time is good every day.  Being in a different part of the house doing something creative or while they are having screen time is a great way to build separation into your routine.

6-  Get outside.  More exercise and fresh air helps just about everything.  Have you ever noticed how after a day on the beach they are too tired to argue?

7-  Let them work it out themselves... UNLESS someone is getting physcially hurt.  It isn't ok for an older, smarter, bigger sibling to beat up (physically or verbally) on a younger sibling.  If that line is crossed, adults need to intervene.

What are your tips for decreasing sibling rivalry on school breaks?  I would love to hear!


About Author

Lisa Allred

Work Life Program Manager

Lisa Allred comes to SAS with a long history of working with families throughout the lifespan. After receiving her undergraduate degree at Wake Forest Universtity and her Masters in Social Work from UNC-CH, her career began as a child therapist focusing on parenting, anxiety and trauma. She then moved into college counseling where she emphasized student wellness and balance.


  1. Mary Jo Kahn on

    Sibling rivalry is the training ground for all other human relationships. Look at is as a positive.
    They are fighting for individuality and for first place with their parents. I don’t believe parents can accomplish peace by making everything equal. Develop each child’s individual interest and spend time alone with each one praising their accomplishments and special traits. They are really fighting for you, not each other. Nonetheless, using sibling fights to teach empathy and fairness will make them better human beings.

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