Every parent hopes that their kids grow up having strong relationships. But sometimes those relationships don’t just magically happen. Here are 5 ways to help your kids build lifelong bonds.

Treat your kids as equals (but individuals).

A young child and an older child have vastly different needs. What you see as just helping with homework, a younger child may see as their sibling getting more of your time, which can cause jealousy. Maybe set up a “homework time” with your younger child while the older one is in school and do simple ABC and 123 work. They can be proud of what they did and they will feel like they got the same one-on-on time as an older sibling.

Create some ‘kids versus parents’ competition.

Nothing will bring your children together faster than competing against you. Team up your kids and come up with something to compete in. It can be anything from a water war to a bake-off. Try to come up with something a little unusual to keep it exciting. There is nothing like sneaking up on your preteen with a bucketful of cold water to incite a little game of “beat the parents.” And against you, they will have to work together.

Eat dinner together.

Everyone is SO busy today. Kids are overscheduled with school, homework, sports, music lessons, etc. And parents work long hours and then have to do housework, help with homework, and chauffer the kids to their many events. Even though it is hard to do, it is important to try to sit down as a family and eat dinner a couple times a week. And as painful as it is for us as parents, the kids commiserating together over having to eat the meal you prepared can bring them closer. It will give them something to agree on, which can feel like a miracle in itself!

Have a family night.

Or day, afternoon, whatever. Time set aside to just be a family and do something together that everyone enjoys is a great way to build strong family ties. Something as simple as playing a board game, watching a movie, or taking a walk is a great way to be together in a low-key, relaxed setting. Just make sure everyone has their own snack to avoid arguments!

Don’t referee every disagreement.

How to deal with conflict is one of the most important things you can teach your kids. Letting kids work out their own problems (stepping in if things escalate to violence, of course) builds confidence. It can be difficult to watch one child seem to dominate the other, but jumping in and rescuing one will only increase sibling rivalry. Kids have to be taught how to fight fairly and listen. The best way you can do that is to model these behaviors yourself and praise when a peaceful resolution is found (which, especially with boys, may just mean no blood was shed!)