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Let's talk Life: Handling sibling rivalry

Published:Saturday | December 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Yvonnie Bailey-Davidson, Contributor

Dear Counsellor,

I have four children and they are always fighting or competing with each other. They seem to be jealous of each other and this has caused me great concern.

- Lola

Dear Lola,

There are many families with solid relationships, but the rivalry between siblings gets the attention. Siblings have to share the one person or the two people they most want for themselves: their parents.

Sometimes the eldest may feel that he is burdened with the responsibility of caring for the younger ones or the younger one is trying to catch up to the oldest one. The grass is always greener on the other side. Sometimes the girl wants to be treated like the boy. Siblings sometimes feel that things are not fair and want a more equitable share of the resources.

Sibling rivalry is considered normal and parents will have to accept that fact. Don't try to make comparisons between children. This will foster anger and hostility between siblings. They will feel that the parent is playing favouritism. In some families, the parents have their favourites and this can cause enmity between siblings. Don't dismiss or suppress your children's resentment or angry feelings.

Talk it through with your children and teach them to accept the fact that sometimes they will feel angry at each other. Teach them to manage their anger and learn self-control. You need to model self-control so that they can see how it is done.

Try to avoid situations that promote guilt in siblings. When possible, let brothers and sisters settle their own differences. Parents need to judge when it is appropriate to jump in and prevent further escalation in the fighting.

If there is disability in a particular child, then the parents will spend more resources on that child. The other children may feel resentful of the time spent on their sibling. They will sense the parents' preoccupation. They may feel that they are receiving only surface attention, that the parent is not really alert to their needs.

Have private time with each child so that he or she feels special and accepted. Lay down the ground rules and let them help you to set the consequences for breaking the rules. Hug them a lot and help them to live in a cooperative manner.

Helping a suicidal individual

Dear Counsellor,

I would like some information on helping someone who is suicidal.

- Mary

Dear Mary,

Hearing someone talk about suicide can be distressful and upsetting. Most people who take their own life have expressed their intention at some time. It is important to take talk or threat of suicide seriously, especially when someone has depression or another mental disorder, is intoxicated, or is behaving impulsively or recklessly.

There are certain risk factors that need to be considered when we assess someone who is suicidal. There is increased risk if the individual has made previous suicidal attempts or has a psychiatric disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or personality disorder. Also important is alcohol or substance abuse, a family history of mental disorders or substance abuse or a family history of suicide.

If a friend or loved one is considering suicide, he or she needs professional help. Your job is not to become a substitute for a mental health provider. The safety of your friend or loved one is of utmost importance

If you believe someone is at imminent risk of harming himself, don't leave the person alone. The person needs to be taken to the nearest emergency room.

Direct questioning, supportive listening and gentle, but persistent guidance can help you bring hope and appropriate treatment to someone who believes that suicide will offer the only relief.

Email questions and feedback for Dr Yvonnie Bailey-Davidson to or call 978-8602.