Parents struggling to keep the peace among siblings may wonder whether their children will even talk as adults, let alone be friends. What happened to the dream of having kids who are best friends? Growing up together doesn’t guarantee lifelong friendship, but parents can take steps to help kids become friends… eventually. And because these relationships with siblings are likely to be the longest lasting of their lives, it will pay off if the relationship is positive. Here are 10 ways to nurture your kids’ bond.

  1. Recognize them each as individuals, encouraging their differences and individual likes and dislikes.
  2. Speak positively, and don’t compare them.
  3. Don’t play favorites. Nothing will make them dislike each other more than competing for attention and knowing it’s a competition they can’t win.
  4. Teach them to resolve disputes, and avoid taking sides in their tiffs.
  5. Treat them fairly — and understand that to them, that may mean being treated equally. If you’re not going to treat them equally because of, say, their age difference, explain the distinction between equal and fair.
  6. Help them learn to communicate well. Sometimes one might have to ask the other to play. They forget that their brother or sister isn’t a mind reader.
  7. Siblings spend a lot of time together. Help make as much of that time together quality time, where they interact positively.
  8. Find a way to provide each child personal space, and teach them to respect one other’s space. In some cases that may mean time when they are in the same area but won’t be bothered or interrupted by the others.
  9. Be clear on your family rules and expectations. If no name-calling is your rule, don’t allow it. If you’re trying to foster respect, teach the characteristics of respect and do not tolerate mistreatment.
  10. “Brainwash them,” says mommy blogger Amanda White. When her children were young (and it was easy), she made them give each other hugs and say, “I love you!” before bed. On a regular basis she says she tells them, “She’s your best friend!” and “You will be best friends forever!” “And you know what?” she writes. “They believe it!”

Take a closer look at how sibling relationship can affect them for life.