5 tips for a happier, more peaceful summer with your kids

Long days at home can create friction. But they can also be an opportunity to improve your family dynamics and help create a more positive environment. Small changes can make a big difference!

Let’s look briefly at how to use positive interactions to develop your child’s emotional intelligence over summer vacation:

IT'S MY TURN!!! Why learning to share with siblings and others is so important

  • When children have trouble with sharing and taking turns, it’s easy to think “they’ll grow out of it”. But when adults either pretend it’s not happening, or expect kids to sort it out amongst themselves, friction and conflict can become more frequent.
  • It’s very important for parents to set a good example with your own sharing behavior and conflict-resolution skills.
  • Reasonable expectations are important. For example, it’s normal for toddlers think more about themselves – that’s important for their development. They do what’s called “parallel play”, and can learn sharing and turn-taking as they get older.

What can happen when sibling fights aren’t handled effectively

  • Sometimes busy parents ignore the problem, or tell children to “sort it out yourselves”. Children may not have the necessary skills or knowledge to resolve conflict, so they need you to actively teach them.
  • Kids may grab and push, and maybe hit or say something hurtful, to get their own way. If this is successful, they may “learn” to repeat this behavior – a great recipe for fights between brothers and sisters.
  • The flip side is a child who is less confident or quieter can learn to just “give in” or avoid even asking for a turn.

Learning to handle conflict and disagreement: key life skills

  • Learning to be generous, to share and take turns is a life skill - an important behavior that enables people to live cooperatively and work together in groups. Families and relationships can’t thrive when there’s constant competition, bickering and lack of sharing.
  • Learning to share isn’t always about toys and games. Sometimes it’s about personal space or not interrupting. Like other life skills, such as doing up shoelaces or eating with cutlery, social-emotional skills take time and practice to learn.
  • Children need to learn to cope with not having everything go their way. Again, it’s important here to have reasonable, age-appropriate expectations. Be patient and keep practicing – children will develop these skills at different ages and stages.

Actively teaching conflict-resolution skills this summer

  • Next time there’s a fight over the remote control or digital tablet (for example), it’s a chance to teach children to be more caring and compassionate; passive children may also need practice to make requests politely but assertively.
  • Rather than telling kids to “stop fighting”, think about it from the perspective of teaching them social skills. This means effectively explaining to your kids what these skills involve, asking them to practice, and giving helpful feedback as they’re learning.                                   
  • When parents see the kids sharing and turn-taking, its crucially important to take notice and give encouragement, praise, and attention: “You guys are playing together really well today.”

Making the effort to teach these skills is worth it

  • If there are no siblings or cousins, another way to practice sharing is through visits with friends. From a social skills perspective, it’s a chance for children learn to be a good host and good guest - thinking about what another child may want.
  • Research shows that kindergarten kids who were more inclined to share and cooperate with others were more likely to succeed in later life. (And less likely to be arrested, use drugs or drop out of high school.)
  • Triple P programs have many more tips on how to teach these and other skills successfully.