Sibling rivalry is said to be more pronounced when the children are of the same gender and very close in age, say experts Image Credit: Stock photo

DUBAI: As Dubai marked the International Siblings Day on Tuesday, experts cautioned parents not to take the issue of sibling rivalry among their children lightly.

Sibling rivalry is a form of competition or animosity among siblings who generally tend to spend more time with each other during childhood than they do with their parents. If unchecked, siblings cat odds can turn into bullies, experts said.

Dr Sarah Zaki, adult and child psychiatrist at Dubai Community Health Centre, said, “Conflict among children is so common that it often goes unnoticed. But intense rivalry, which may pass off as a ‘rash fight’ can affect the child’s overall development. Parents must pay careful attention to their behaviour and seek professional help to deal with it if necessary. ”

Dr Zaki, who works closely with families in the UAE, believes greater the similarity between two children, higher the chances of conflict. “Rivalry is less common between a brother-sister pair,” she said, noting how it is particularly intense when children are very close in age and of the same gender. She said sibling rivalry is less common in the UAE. “Expat couples here have fewer children and are more attentive to them compared to families in other countries. This definitely lessens the chances of severe rivalry.”

Dr Anna Paul, child and parent therapist at Kids in Motion Therapy Services Centre, said parents should know when to intervene.

“I advise parents to stay out of the conflict unless it is serious. In my experience, sibling rivalry is uncommon among kids whose parents work full time. The children tend to form a stronger bond in the absence of supervision.”

Monica Valrani of Ladybird Nursery said it helps to send siblings to the same institution, right from the nursery level.

“The sibling spillover effect, where the younger one is influenced by the older child in a setting out of their home, begins to grow. They learn to respect and accept each other without conflict, because they seek comfort in each other during the absence of their parents. The initial bonding then goes a long way,” said Valrani.

Tips to tackle sibling rivalry

1. Don’t intervene immediately when you see your children fight. Wait for them to resolve the issue.

2. Make sure you don;t discriminate between your children, treat them all on an equal footing.

3. Be careful not to take sides and play fair.

4. Teach the kids to say sorry and to forgive and forget.

5. Be firm that they cannot cross the line by hitting or scratching each other. Don;t allow them abuse each other too.

6. Seek professional help if you must.