Sibling relationships are an important and influential part of a young person’s life.  Ensuring a positive relationship with a sibling can massively improve a young person’s experience in care, giving them someone to look up to, play with, and care for with all their heart.

At Orchard Fostering, we believe in the importance of healthy sibling relationships – but how do you encourage positive relationships between foster children? Using our foster care expertise, we’ve compiled this how-to guide for fostering positive relationships among siblings. Read on to find out more about helping foster siblings bond, as well as ways to encourage the development of these relationships over time.

If you’re interested in foster care, please reach out to Orchard Fostering today. We’re available on the phone or via email – you can also fill out a form directly on our contact page. 

Focus on building a bond between siblings from the beginning 

As a foster carer, you are always building bonds with the children in your care. While we can often focus on scaffolding the child-carer relationship first, establishing a bond between foster siblings is just as important. If you have multiple children in your household, they need to have strong relationships with one another – this will help the children in your care feel like a family, giving them all the comfort and safety required for a successful foster experience.

Before welcoming a new child into your care, explain the situation to the children you already have in your home. Answer any questions they have and help them feel ready and enthusiastic about the new arrival. We’ve discussed the importance of the ‘first day’ before – the learnings we outlined extend to the sibling relationship, too, and the children already in your home should take part in some of the ‘first day’ activities. Allow the young people to have their time together – getting to know each other on that first day is a vital part of building a lasting bond.

Encourage independent interests (and then bring these interests together)

All children are different – this we know for a fact! One way to build relationships with young people is to encourage their interests – and encourage them to share their interests with one another. Human beings love to tell other human beings about the things they love – talking about the stuff we like is a gateway to talking about everything else. It is wonderful to have independent interests – and it is even more wonderful to share these interests with others.

If one child in your care loves comic books and the other child in your care loves football, get them to work together on a comic book strip about a footballing superhero, or encourage them to kick a ball around while pretending to be Spider-man and Captain America.

Be aware of (and encourage) differences

While sharing interests can be a great way of encouraging children to be themselves in front of others, it can sometimes lead to disagreements. As we said above, all children are different – and that’s perfectly okay! The children in your care will disagree about things – whether that’s football or superheroes or something else entirely – and you will have to deal with these disagreements. (Dealing with conflict between birth children and children in foster care can be difficult – read our piece on managing challenging behaviour here and our piece on discussing foster care with your birth children here).

The best way to handle this is to make your children aware of differences early on. Encourage them to discuss their differences and similarities – allowing them to hash these out will reduce potential tension. If your children know it is okay to be different, they will become more tolerant of one another and others – building strong foundations for their relationship in the future.

Teach them to care for one another

The most brilliant thing about having siblings is that you have more people to care for you. From day one, encourage the children in your care to look out for one another – this will help to forge a strong connection between them all, as they develop a protective family unit of their own. Develop a ‘sibling code’ for them to follow, with simple rules they can abide by in school and at home. If someone is hurt, you go to them. If someone is struggling, you help them. If someone is in a bad mood, you try to cheer them up.

Give them their own space

While you are the carer, you must remember – the children in your care will always need their own space to develop their relationships. Give them time and space to build up their bond – it won’t all happen on the first day. By allowing their relationship to develop naturally (with some guidance along the way, as outlined above), you will be able to witness the creation of a positive sibling relationship in no time at all.

If you’re interested in foster care, please reach out to Orchard Fostering today. We’re available on the phone or via email – you can also fill out a form directly on our contact page.