For as long as I can remember, my little sister and I have been close. When we were little, we'd always play together, whether it be trying on costumes for dress-up or building forts outside. Now that we're older, I rarely go more than a few days without talking to her, even if it's just a text about the latest episode of Downton Abbey. I realize that not everyone gets along with their siblings, so I feel lucky to have a sister who is also a good friend.
So I was particularly interested in this new study about sibling relationships published in the journal Pediatrics. Research suggests that younger children who are close with their older siblings may develop better vocabularies. This is especially true in large families, where the littler kids might receive less individual attention from Mom and Dad. But an older "cognitively sensitive" child—who uses simpler sentences or slows down without talking like a baby—can be a huge help.
My sister has always been smart, and I have no doubt that she'll be one of the top in her class when she graduates from college in the spring. While I'd love to take all the credit for her extensive vocabulary and academic abilities, I'm sure plenty of other factors were involved too. But I like to think that even in our small family, maybe I gave her an extra boost at some point. Plus the research is a nice examination of how family bonds can bring about all sorts of unexpected benefits.
No matter the size of your family or the depth of anyone's vocabularies, a strong friendship between siblings is crucial. Here are some tips to build bonds that worked for my parents:
- Let the kids work as a team, whether they are completing chores together or tackling a challenging jigsaw puzzle.
- Encourage respect. Teach your kids how to consider each other's feelings, and how to voice polite disagreement.
- Have regular family discussions in which everyone can speak up.
- Emphasize the importance of family, and spend plenty of time together doing fun activities.
What You Need to Know About Your Youngest Child
Image: Girl playing with little brother via Shutterstock.