Encouraging siblings, at any age, to be friends isn’t the easiest task. Although siblings tend to want to run and tell each other things right away, it is probably more natural for siblings to be competitive. There is an unspoken jealousy almost between sibling sets. Who is faster? Who is stronger? Who is smarter? Within these things, although at times it may seem hidden, is love.

We all want our children to have healthy emotions. Let them know that it is okay to be mad or angry. It is okay to be sad or upset. No one should want or expect to have little robot children who are perfect all of the time. Never smother their personality with rules but teach them that rules are there to protect them. During these teachable moments, listen to where your child is coming from.

How can we teach our children to use their emotions in a less aggressive way, yet remain true to themselves?

As a parent, when our children are fighting excessively, we need to take a step back to understand why this is happening. Really listen to your children when they say something is bothering them. Often, siblings are forced to be around each other. Could it be that one child or both need more personal space or alone time? Imagine having to be around that one coworker with whom you have a personality clash for an extended amount of time—just the proximity sparks an uneasy feeling.

To help dissolve the situation, first figure out if the child is acting out or reacting?

These are two very different things. A child who is acting out could be doing it because he is bored or needs some comedic relief. Often, one child will spark a fight by laughing at another or calling a name. These situations are hard to diffuse because their intentions aren’t typically to actually bully their sibling but simply to get a reaction to cure the dullness of the day.

Now the more difficult issues lie within the children who are reacting to a situation in an aggressive or angry way. Is the child showing these emotions because of a move, divorce, new baby? Are they reacting to something that happened at school or church or with peers? Are they reacting because they don’t want to be here, or they are wanting to do something else? In order to help your child, you need to have discussions about the underlying issues first. Always, always keep those lines of communication open.

Regardless of how your children treat each other, love them through it. With all of the unique personalities in this world, not everyone is meant to get along. Those strong-willed children could move mountains as adults. Let them be strong. Let them be brave. Let them be themselves.

Whether they see this now or not, your children will be able to depend upon one another for the rest of their lives. Sibling bonds are one of the hardest to be broken. Siblings can make each other cry, but they can also make each other laugh. The vast amount of memories siblings hold range from exploring the backyard to embarrassing moments to some of the silliest times of your life. These things are only appreciated fully as an adult; however, children will relate more and more with every story you tell about your childhood. Once again, communication is incredibly important.

At the end of the day, they are your children to parent and nurture. Encourage healthy conversation and positive remarks toward each other. Be a role model for kindness and respect. Encourage your children to be friends. Friends aren’t perfect, yet they are there for each other at any time of any day.