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Avoiding Sibling Rivalry at Christmas by Dr Amanda Gummer | Blogmas Day 6

      Written by Amanda Gummer, MD and founder, Fundamentally Children

Christmas is an exciting and therefore often highly emotional time for children. If you have more than one child at home, there’s lots you can do to ensure they all enjoy the festivities together, rather than arguing and bickering or getting jealous and competitive.

It’s a really good idea to make sure you spend some time with each child individually over the Christmas period. Find out what they would like to do and let them lead your time together to get the most from it. This ensures that nobody feels left out or sidelined in the excitement and business of preparations and also gives you the time to focus attention on each child amidst the madness.

To avoid arguments, it’s also really important for children to understand that equal doesn’t have to mean identical. Be sure to point out the positives about everyone’s gifts and experiences throughout the period, and try to discourage children from comparing theirs to their siblings’.

Young Children

Little ones won’t yet understand the value of presents, but they are likely to understand quantity. So it’s often easier if you ensure that all children have the same number of presents to open. Even if the spend isn’t exactly the same, this will put an end to ‘she got more than me’ complaints. You can either bundle a couple of related things together or add in a couple of knick knacks to even it out, just make sure the number is the same.

Try to get little ones involved in choosing presents for other people together and giving joint presents too. This will help to encourage collaboration rather than competition and they will love giving the presents to family and friends together. You could also get them involved with making gifts or cards together to give them a real sense of accomplishment and pride.

Also support children in choosing or making a nice present for their siblings. They are then likely to get very excited about giving the gifts they have chosen, rather than being resentful that others are getting things that they aren’t.

If one of your children is off to a party or other Christmas event, plan something fun to do at home with the one who isn’t attending, so that they don’t feel that they are left out. Perhaps do some Christmassy crafts, or head out for a walk to gather holly etc for decorating the house, or bake some Christmassy goodies together to share when their sibling gets home.

Older Children

The most important lesson to older children is that Christmas is not a competition - different children have different interests, which will inevitably have different costs. But as long as each person is enjoying their gifts and experiences, that is the most important thing.

Try to avoid materialism by not letting children focus on the cost of something, but instead emphasise the effort and thought that has gone into a gift. Hand-made presents can be encouraged, as can vouchers for things like breakfast in bed for a parent. It’s key for them to understand that the result of making a loved one happy is the most important part of gift giving.

This is particularly worthwhile when they are thinking of gifts for siblings - Encourage them to be particularly thoughtful in these, by thinking about what they enjoy, what makes them happy and what they would love to do and then reflecting this in a gift.

As we all know, Christmas ought to be a time of happiness and enjoyment. And while gifts, great food, parties, etc, are wonderful additions to the period, it’s important to place emphasis on family time, people and love. This can be difficult to do when we are swamped with adverts and great products at every turn, so the key for happy children at Christmas is to create a balance between the two.

Fundamentally Children is an organisation dedicated to helping children develop skills through play. We provide independent expert advice on a range of topics including play, toys, apps, children’s tech, e-safety, child development, special needs and other parenting issues. The company was founded by child psychologist and regular media spokesperson, Dr Amanda Gummer. is the home of the Good Toy and App Guides and Fundamentally Children Endorsed as well as a raft of other useful advice for parents, carers and childcare professionals.

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