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EU361: Siblings

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Sisällön tarjoaa Pam Laricchia. Pam Laricchia tai sen podcast-alustan kumppani lataa ja toimittaa kaiken podcast-sisällön, mukaan lukien jaksot, grafiikat ja podcast-kuvaukset. Jos uskot jonkun käyttävän tekijänoikeudella suojattua teostasi ilman lupaasi, voit seurata tässä https://fi.player.fm/legal kuvattua prosessia.

In this episode, Pam, Anna, and Erika explore the sibling dynamic and some of the questions that come up when unschooling families navigate sibling relationships. We talk about letting go of expectations, watching out for casting our children in roles, understanding our own triggers, and how “fair” doesn’t mean “equal.”

We hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey!

THINGS WE MENTION IN THIS EPISODE

The Living Joyfully Shop – books, courses, coaching calls, and more!

The Living Joyfully Network

The Living Joyfully Podcast

Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube.

Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram.

Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out our website, livingjoyfully.ca for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling?

We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. This month, we’re talking about Celebrating Interests. Come and be part of the conversation!

So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ERIKA: Hello, everyone! I’m Erika Ellis from Living Joyfully, and we are so glad you have joined us for this episode of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Anna Brown. Welcome to you both!

ANNA AND PAM: Hello!
ERIKA: Hi! So, on today’s episode, we are diving into a really popular topic, and that is siblings. So many of the questions we receive on the podcast are about sibling relationships, and it’s also a huge topic of discussion on the Living Joyfully Network.

On the Network, members can share specific challenges they’re facing and it just opens up these amazing discussions since our community has such a wide variety of experiences. I know I always take something away from our conversations that helps me see things in my own life with my family in a new way. And everyone on the Network is really being intentional and open and curious, and that just creates such a great atmosphere for learning and growing as a parent and as a human.

And so, if you’d like to learn more about the Network and check it out for yourself, visit livingjoyfully.ca/network, because we would love to meet you.

And now onto our discussion for today, Siblings. Do you want to get us started, Pam?

PAM: Absolutely. I would love to get us started. And, knowing me, I think it can be so helpful to start with exploring our expectations, because there are so many conventional messages around siblings that we need to explore so that we can let them go.

We can’t skip this stage by saying to ourselves, “I release my expectations. I know I shouldn’t have them,” because trying to bury them that way won’t last long. They will bubble up in our energy. They will bubble up in our word choice. Even if we don’t consciously recognize that we’re bringing them in, they will bubble up, because they are part of our essence right now.

So, we need to do the work to discover the expectations that we personally hold and dig into them to understand where they come from, explore the implicit messages for our kids that we are subtly communicating, and just see if they actually make sense for us.

So, for example, I think an expectation that a lot of us hold, certainly when we first have kids, is that our kids will be the best of friends. Of course, our family will get along! Of course, the kids will be nice to one another and play together and help each other out! When they grow up, they will be the best of friends. Even if we didn’t get along with our siblings, we envision it’ll be different this time. It’ll be better for our kids. I think that’s a great one to pull apart a bit and just ask ourselves some questions. Why do we think that? Do we think that the shared genetics means that they’ll naturally get along? Or is it the close proximity? They live in the same house. They know each other so well. Of course they’ll develop deep and meaningful connections that will last them a lifetime.

Does telling them, “Be nice to one another! You’re siblings!” work? So, I think it starts to seem a little bit unrealistic when we peel back the layers around the connection between being siblings and being friends, because those are actually very different things, and so much so because people are different.

That genetic connection really isn’t going to take you far, I don’t think. People are incredibly and beautifully so different, aren’t they?

ANNA: Oh my gosh. This one’s a big one for me, just for my personal journey. I have two girls, now adults, but they are pretty close in age, like less than two years. And I would say, early on, they really were the best of friends and always playing together and it had this idealistic feel, with its own bumps along the way. And then when they got to the preteen, early teen years, I saw this need for them to define themselves separately.

They’re very different, like you said. I mean, could not be more different in every way. And at that stage it just really highlighted that. They wanted people that were more in line with different aspects of themselves. There were even times where it wasn’t like fighting necessarily, but there was a little bit of that, but it was more just this distance, and so I really had to do work, and it kind of hit me by surprise, to just really let that go. They may never be friends. They may not hang out together when they’re older like that. May not ever happen. And it was only then through that releasing that I was able to actually see them and facilitate what they needed at that time.

And they have a fine relationship now. They’re not the best of friends, but we enjoy being together as a family, all of those pieces. But I know that had I really harped on that and stayed there, I think it would’ve gotten really ugly. And so, I think just watching for when these things bubble up, like you said, there’s all these external messages and they can hit us at odd and different times and understanding that we’re all different and move through things differently is just so, so important.

ERIKA: Yeah. I feel like I benefited from your learning about this, because on the Network, I was able to hear a lot about the different phases that kids go through. And so, I definitely have noticed myself clinging to those times when they are playing so well together and making each other laugh so hard. And those moments just feel so great. And so, I had some fear, as they’re getting older, like, what if they stopped doing that? How’s that going to feel for me? I was afraid of that ending.

But I feel like it’s been less scary than I was anticipating, just because I’m so actively observing who they are every step of the way. And so, the decisions that they’re making now and the choices that they make and the way they’re relating to each other now just kind of make sense to me. I see who they are and I’m not putting my wishes or expectations or this fantasy life that I could imagine ahead of who they really are in reality, in this moment, as they’re growing.

And so, I think that’ll really help as they continue to grow and as their relationship continues to change over the next years. And so, that was one part.

But I think that’s not the only expectation even that we have potentially about siblings is that they’ll be friends. It’s like, the big brother who will be the protector or there’s all these different potential things that we’ve learned about as we are growing up and what we experienced maybe with our own siblings, like, what are the dynamics? What is the older sibling supposed to be like? And what’s the little baby sibling supposed to be like?

And so, just recognizing that so many of those things are just stories and cultural ideas that don’t really have anything to do with these actual different people who are right here showing us who they are.

ANNA: And that leads to one that I want to talk about that’s related and a little bit different and that is the roles that we tend to cast people in. And our brain can just do that for a lot of different reasons that we don’t even have to go into. But it is something to watch for, because it’s like that. The big brother’s going to be this. That’s one aspect of roles, but another one is these assumptions that we make about a person. “You’re the shy one. You’re the sporty one. You’re this one.” That really pits siblings against each other, because neither is feeling heard or none are feeling heard. None are feeling seen for who they truly are. And so, that piece you were talking about, Erika, where you see them, you know them, you celebrate who they are uniquely, that is actually what creates a family that feels good, because we’re all feeling heard and seen individually, without these expectations of, we are one way, we are another way.

I read the book Siblings Without Rivalry when my girls were very young, like infant and two, because I was going to get ahead of it, right? My partner, his relationship with his brother is terrible. And so, actually, I found the book interesting, because I could see his life playing out in that book. How the roles were cast, how it was created that they would hate each other. And ultimately, they’ve found their peace to some extent as they’ve gotten older. But it’s like, oh! It was not mal-intent at all, but it’s just not giving intentionality to, how am I showing up? Am I really tuning into who this unique person is in front of me?

PAM: I love that. So, it’s something that we’ve talked about, looking at your child as an individual. What do they like? Who are they? How do they move through the world? And how deep that is. That is so important in this topic, too, in sibling relationships, to be able to see them as an individual versus a role. Because yes, that role, then it’s like, does one parent prefer the sporty one? So, now we are going to have this closer relationship. Oh, we’re introverts. We’ll stay in and sit in a room, whatever, so it just messes with all the relationships. It messes with the sibling relationships. It can mess with parent-child relationships, which then affects the sibling relationships, because then it becomes competitive.
When we start bringing roles in, we are not looking at the individual. It’s like, okay, we understand them. We’ve now got this definition for them that we can use in substitute, because it’s faster to think about sporty person than it is, this is my child that loves hockey or loves football and loves this part of it and wants to play it all the time. The individual nuances of sport are just so valuable in having a relationship with that person, in connecting with that person, and in supporting that person in the pieces that they enjoy.

And if we cast them so much in that role, we don’t think about them in the bigger picture. They may want to grow beyond it. It really makes it so hard for us to connect with the people in our family. And one thing that I love, and I guess we can link to it in the show notes, is the whole idea of a family of individuals. That idea hit me because I did a lot of processing around this, and the idea of our family as a family of individuals versus language that talks about, we are a family that does this or we are a family that does that. Not only casting the people into their own individual roles, we’re casting the family into a role that, we always get along with each other. We always do this or we are a sporty family and that poor one child that really is not interested just gets dragged along to all these events.

But that’s the great thing. Think about it through your family’s lens, the individuals that are in your family.

And for me, the a-ha moment that came out of that was recognizing that at first I was thinking about the idea of fairness. At holiday time or birthdays, they all get this number of gifts. Or if we go out, they all get this kind of thing. I spend the same amount when we travel here or we do this thing. So, when I started digging into that, it’s like, oh, they are such different people. If one of my kids wanted a baseball glove or something that supported their sport love, and then I was like, oh, I want to be fair. I don’t want them fighting over the thing. I give everybody a baseball glove, as an example, you can quickly see. The other child sticks that in the closet and it never comes out again.

So, for me, taking that idea of fair and alongside the idea that people are different, I started to realize that the question for me was more the idea of feeling equally loved. What would that look like for each child? Because when you start thinking of it through that lens, it would look very different for each child. So, in some seasons, one child will need more of your attention to actively process through a challenge that they’re going through maybe, and another child who’s loving that sport needs more of the family budget right now, because they’re traveling for games and stuff like that. And maybe another just needs more of your presence right now, because they’re embracing a cocooning season and just knowing that you’re there for them just helps them feel good.

And you can see how, in that situation, they would all feel equally loved. But how you are with them looks very, very different. And it’s that equally loved piece that helps keep that competition out of the sibling relationships. It helps them recognize that, oh, we all have value, we’re all loved, and we’re very different people, and it looks very different for each of us. So, there is just such depth to talking about sibling relationships, isn’t there?

ANNA: And we get there by seeing them as unique people and not the roles. That’s the work of how to get to that place of, what does that even feel like?

ERIKA: Right, because fair doesn’t really even make sense once you start to think that people are different. It’s not even a thing anymore.

And I feel like what’s interesting about the fairness part is it’s coming from the place of the parent showing love. That is the point of it. Like, I want to be doing a very good job as a parent, so I want to make sure that everything is fair.

And so, I grew up that way. And I made a really intentional choice to not ever bring any fairness language into my interactions with my own kids as they were growing up. And I really do think it made a big difference in their relationship. And I’m sure it’s personality-based, too. But I grew up with a lot of messages about making sure everything was equal and fair, and I see it with my mom when she interacts with my kids, like, “I can play with you for 10 minutes and then I’m going to go play with your sister for 10 minutes,” and she’ll do that without even really realizing what she’s doing, because it’s overwhelming to have both kids coming at her and she wants to make sure that they’re both getting their time. It’s coming from a place of caring about them and wanting to do a good job.

And yet then I see how, if that’s the way it is, over and over, it starts to be like, but it’s my turn. And that’s not fair. She got more minutes. And so, we just haven’t had that type of discussion with our kids. They don’t really do that. “But it’s not fair,” is not really something that we hear.

And so, I don’t think my natural state from birth would be to be competitive. I feel like I’ve always been super aware and concerned about other people’s feelings and would have wanted more of that type of relationship with my siblings, where I would’ve wanted them to get what they needed and celebrating people, all of our family, as different individuals and wanting to support each other in getting what we all needed.

But instead, it did turn more into, but now she got that, what do I get? Really making sure that we’re competing. And so, I don’t know. It does feel like something that’s learned, that fair means equal thing.

PAM: Yeah, I think they don’t think children are capable of supporting each other, of taking other people’s, their siblings’, needs into account. I think they do learn to compare and that is what unlikely through our language and through our loving wish, that we treat them all equal so that they all feel equally loved. But it’s not a comparison thing. It’s not a tit for tat thing.

It really is supporting them as the individual. Like your example, Erika, is just brilliant. Ten minutes each child, because, what if one child just wanted to show her something that would take three minutes and the other one wants to get into a deep discussion that would take 15? You’ve got practically 20 minutes each way, but you’ve left one kid who showed them for two minutes and then is bored trying to keep them occupied for the next seven minutes of the 10 minutes, and then the other one feels like, oh, I didn’t get enough time, but I wanted to show you a little bit more. So, they’re both left feeling like the connection wasn’t what they were looking for just because it was equally divided. It’s fascinating.

ANNA: It really is. And I do want to say, this is going to be a little bit of a counterpoint, but because I’m thinking of my own two girls very close in age, and I’m thinking of a friend with three girls very close in age, sometimes it did mean we needed two Switches or we needed three things, and it wasn’t so much about fair is equal.

It’s more like, but wait a minute! I want to play the new thing, too! And so, I had to let go of this idea or maybe this is another expectation, that siblings are going to share. Because no, not always. Sometimes we need two things and we need three things, because we’re all wanting to engage with whatever that thing is. So, this isn’t about these perfect children that are sitting there, but there is a mindset piece to it. So, I just wanted to throw that in there.

ERIKA: Right and if they have more of an experience of like, our needs are going to get met and what I care about is important, then they’re much more likely to be expressing what they want as what they actually want. And so, if Oliver says, “Why did Maya get that? I want that,” I believe him. It’s not about competing with her. It’s like, “I also want that.” And then that totally makes sense.

PAM: Yeah. Completely. Because it’s them being themselves and wanting to engage in the things that they’re interested in.

So, yeah, if somebody got one thing, that’s the difference. If you think about a family where fair is being determined as equal, they see somebody getting something else that’s popular, it’s like, I need to have that, too, so that you’re being fair. So, it’s a power thing. And they need it. And they want it and it sits in the shelf, but I got it through that expression of, yes. I have equal power in in this family. I will get those things.

But if somebody gets something and everybody’s loving it and they want more time with it, yes. You get another one and then maybe another one, and maybe one for the parent.

ANNA: Yeah and it wasn’t the Nintendo Switch back in the day. What is that thing, Pam, that we have? A DS. Yeah. So, all four of us had the DS, David, me, and the girls, because we all wanted to engage with it. And there were moments where I was like, this is ridiculous that we have four of these. And other times where I’m like, it brought us so much joy and was so fun and it just made a lot of sense.
So, yeah, definitely that. Yeah. But can I go onto a different topic?
One of the things I wanted to talk about, because it comes up a lot with siblings, we see it on the Network and other places is when there’s conflicts. So, we have the fights or the different things happening or escalations happening. And I just wanted to really talk about, for me, I can have a justice button. And so, I really had to watch for my own triggers. What was being triggered in me? Am I worried about the younger one? Am I feeling like this one’s taking advantage? Whatever it was.

I noticed all of that was not about what was in front of me. It was a lot about my own experience as a sibling, my own experience at school with those type of dynamics. And so, I really wanted to watch for those triggers, so that I could set that aside. Because what I wanted to bring to a potential conflict or an actual conflict was this neutral observer role, a facilitator, but not someone that’s passing judgment.

So, if I hear screaming in the other room, it’s coming in like, whoa, everybody’s upset. Let’s just take a pause. What’s going on? Tell me what’s happening. I wanted to bring that kind of calm energy of, I’m not passing a judgment about it.

And that helped so much. Then I could hear them. And I want to talk about validation later. I’ll let you guys talk in just a second, but bring that energy of, I want to understand and we’re going to work this out. And you mentioned that a little bit too, Erika.
When we have that trust that I’m going to be heard, nobody’s going to be judging me, we’re going to figure this out, those conflicts can be deescalated much faster than in other environments where there’s judging and you have to defend and explain and you feel like you’re not being heard.

ERIKA: Yeah. The triggers are hard though. This is one of the really hard things, I think, about being a parent, because we’re not always or maybe ever conscious of all these different things that are trapped within us, these old wounds or old things that have happened. And so, to be unaware of that and then go into this new situation and realize, oh my gosh, I really am holding a lot of something uncomfortable about what’s happening here.

I’ve seen it play out with different parents really thinking that the older child should know better. The older child gets viewed as, well, they’re older, so they shouldn’t ever be doing this to the younger child or something. And expecting more from that older child than what makes sense for their age. And so, it helps to just be aware of the children where they are. They’re all doing the best they can, the same as we are, and just realizing that if we’re feeling something that’s so strong and heavy towards an interaction, it’s got to be something more within ourselves to peel back.

PAM: Yeah, I love that. Just noticing something’s bubbling up and it’s like, oh, maybe this feels bigger than the situation warrants.

When you have a second child, the first child just looks so much older. Even if they’re only four or they’re only five, you know? But all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, you are just so much bigger, so much more seemingly capable than this young one here. So, it’s back to expectations. We can put so many expectations on them, and maybe we’ve worked through it once or twice. “We’ve talked about this before! You don’t do that.” Meeting them where they are, and knowing and learning who they are and helping them process and move through the situation, it is just incredible. It’s night and day.

It’s so valuable to walk in without judgments or preconceived notions into a moment. Also, I think to walk in with no preconceived solution to it. If I walk in knowing, “Okay, this happened again, you should be doing this, and you should be doing that. And please remember what I said next time this happens. Do that again, please.” That’s just not how human beings tick. It’s not how they learn, memorizing someone else’s solution. It’s back to people are different. Memorizing how someone else moves most comfortably through a conflict just is not it. Sure, it’s great information to have, maybe, like, oh yeah, that’s how they like to move through it, but what works for me? I need to play with all sorts of different ways to move through it.

And I think it also becomes, again, back to the individual, for some kids being there and having the conversation together works. It helps move them through tit. I know for my kids for a while, as we were learning these tools, it was really helpful just to scatter when things got overwhelming and then I could talk to each of them individually. Because when we were together and we had moved to unschooling, there was that defensiveness, there was still a bit of that power dynamic where, “No, they don’t get to do that,” or, “I get to do that,” and it was hard to validate one child in front of somebody else. (We’ll get to validation next.) And so, to be able to talk to them individually and process individually and come up with plans, “Next time maybe, what would feel good? What might we try?”

And just to play with things and play with different ways to move through it. And that took time. That took months, years, and it doesn’t matter how long. I don’t want given amount of time. Like if I do this for this long, then this will be solved and we’ll move on to something else. Again, it’s the individual people in front of you. Some pieces of it they might pick up really quickly. Other pieces may take a lot of time for them to find their way through it, and then to be able to remember that when we’re in a heightened moment is even another step.

When we’re triggered, we know how hard it is to try and come back to this moment and be present with the other people in it, even as adults. All human beings are going to be challenged by that. To have the expectation that our kids will figure it out and then be able to do it for the rest of their lives, that’s just a pretty heavy one for them to hold.

ANNA: And so, I feel like this leads into validation from a lot of different directions, because I think when we understand our kids as unique creatures, their own people, that helps us with the validation piece. Because validation really is tuning into the individual in front of you. And it’s helpful to remember, we don’t have to agree or even understand their experience to hear and validate and show up for it.

And I’ve told this story many times before, but we had a friend over and the girls were young and screaming breaks out. I’m visiting with this old friend in one room and screaming breaks out in the other room and I go down there and she’s observing me, this friend who does not have kids.

And my oldest is like, “I hate her! I never want a sister!” The whole nine yards is coming out. Just all the big language. All the everything. And I just was calm with her. Like, “You just wish you’d never had a sister at all. You are just so angry right now and you just want her gone. You just don’t want a sister.” And just really validating those big, hard emotions. And she’s like, “Well. It’s not that. I just wish she would listen.” And she was able to move through, because I wasn’t scared by her big language. I didn’t go, “But you love her and she means well and she didn’t want to do this,” and the kind of explaining that we tend to do, because we can be protective for the young one who we love and that feels scary.

But five minutes, two minutes later, they’re back playing happily together. And my friend’s like, “What in the world just happened? How did we go from, I thought the house was going to burn down to, they’re just playing and laughing again?” And I was like, “She just needed to feel heard in that moment.” She was super frustrated. They’re young, they’re figuring things out, like super frustrated. And I could hear that, because I don’t have to take in and defend her sister. And like you said, sometimes it’s separating, so that I can validate little sister who’s like, “She is being mean, she’s doing this,” whatever it is.

But I think one of the pieces I want to get about validation when we’re talking about it with siblings is, even the hard stuff. Even the ugly stuff. Even the things like that, we need to validate and be with them, because that’s how we move through those hard emotions is by that validation.

PAM: The language that feels to us like it’s over the top, it may just be the language that they have. They’re just trying to express their emotions. But we have that nuance. So, when we can come to them and see and hear and validate, what we’re validating is the emotion, we’re validating them where they are. It’s not really about the language, right?

So, that’s how she could start to see, oh, well it’s this thing. But she needed to be heard that this thing was big for her. And they have a limited amount of language, depending on age, to be able to express that. So, they just pick the biggest words just to show. Validation is all about the other person. It is not about, “I am now saying that I agree with you. What a pain that other child is. Why did we even have them?” That’s not what we’re saying when we say, you never wanted to have a sibling, a brother or sister, whatever. It’s not what we’re saying when we’re validating.

We’re not agreeing because we validate. We are meeting them, showing them that we see them, that we see whatever it is, whatever energy that they’re having, emotion that they’re having in that moment. It just makes all the difference to feeling seen and heard. And through those conversations, that’s where they’re practicing the skills. It’s like, oh yeah, that wasn’t actually that. It was, “I wasn’t being heard.” And through a few times of that, then they can get first to the, “I’m not feeling heard,” but they need lots of time to practice that and to start identifying that, to find the nuances so they can start to recognize them, and then they can get to that place themselves. And then we meet them where they’re saying, “They’re not listening to me,” and then we work through that piece. It’s hard and it’s so beautiful, too.

ERIKA: Yeah. I feel like we’re getting to a point that I was hoping to make, which is just how often these sibling relationships are the fertile learning ground for how to interact with another human. And so, yeah, it’s challenging and they are coming without these skills, and yet here are all of these great opportunities. So, I feel like just knowing that and having that idea in my mind helps me in the moments of conflict. If I can think, this is what it’s all about. Navigating these conflicts and doing this well with them and validating them and really hearing them out and helping them learn to express themselves, helping them learn to narrate for themselves, all of those kinds of skills, it’s going to help them for the rest of their lives. Navigating conflict is not going to be something that goes away throughout life. And so, one of the values in having a sibling is these opportunities to learn some of these relating skills.
And validating is so much easier, like you were saying, when we are looking at them as individuals and not in their roles and that can tend to be a place where I get stuck, if I’m thinking, but you don’t do that. Or, but you aren’t like that, or, but you should know better. And so, I love how all these things are connected in this topic.

PAM: Yeah, I love that point, Erika. The validation looks so different for each child, more than likely, and with our partner, but we’re talking about siblings today, but yes, it is so individual, because it really helps to know the individual to be able to play with the language. Again, it’s not, here are the steps to validating. Please do that next time your child is upset. We all wish there were rules or a procedure that we could follow that works for everybody. But we are all different. We are all individuals. And it can change over time and it changes over seasons and skills and as we change as human beings.

But it’s just so fascinating to recognize the value of it. For me, it goes back to our dance metaphor in relationships. I may say a little something that just doesn’t seem to quite land, but then I say something else and I keep trying. And that may be how I’m getting more information.

I also wanted to add, and I know we’ve talked about this before with validation and we’ll link to some of our older episodes, too, but also maybe in the moment, validation isn’t about words. For a couple of my kids when things were heightened, validation was about just being with them. Just being with the energy, meeting them with that energy. You alluded to that, Anna, too, just being that grounded presence where they know, “Hey, they can stay in the room even when I’m super upset. And I’m still okay and I will get through.” There are so many messages communicated when I can just be there with them and we’ll more than likely have short, long, lots of conversations later for the processing piece. But also just processing through the energy might be something that needs to be done in silence. Any additional energy that I bring just can’t be absorbed yet. Conversation can’t be had.

So, we might think that validation must be about conversation. I just wanted to say that it’s never just one thing. What does your child need in that moment? That is the most important thing, not some sort of process somebody told you about.

ANNA: Right. It really is. So, for me, it’s watching my own self, grounding myself, and then showing up however is needed, because we’re going to get those clues. We’re going to get clues from our child. If they’re wanting a conversation about it, if they’re just wanting us to be there, if they’re wanting us to help them pull out of a situation.

Because sometimes there’s this headbutting going on and they’re just needing our help to move things along and change things up or be with them. But I feel like I get there best to see those pieces when I’m grounded, when I’ve watched for my triggers, when I’m not coming into it with that activated energy.

ERIKA: Right. “I can handle this,” is a really good feeling. And I know as the upset person, it really feels so good to have someone who can be there for it, and that it feels like, this is okay. Even this is okay.

Parenting siblings benefits from so many of the tools that we talk about. So, validation, of course, narration, definitely, remembering the HALT, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bringing in the context for our kids, these kinds of narration things.

And I feel like it has also helped when I reflect on past conflicts and show them how we have gotten through them. You know what I mean? This is something that has helped Oliver a lot, because he’ll be really stuck in the moment and feel so angry. And then if we can remember, “You’ve felt like this before. Do you remember that those feelings pass and that we can find a way to make things feel better?”

That memory usually helps settle his nervous system, because you can feel stuck in that moment of conflict and it can feel like you can’t escape. But, I was a kid once. I had siblings. I remember what it was like to feel so angry and so frustrated by them, and we move through it, and just using all of those skills helps so much.

ANNA: Yeah. I love that reminder, because it really is. I mean, that’s why we talk about the same things over and over again, because they apply to so many different situations. So, I’m going to give a quick shout out to the Living Joyfully Podcast, because we really talk about those tools in that specific way and just in relationships in general.

And, like you said, Erika, this is the first intense relationship for them with their sibling and with us and I think it’s made so much more valuable by our presence and by sharing these tools and by talking about things and by being that presence with them and helping them understand that. What I’ve seen with my kids, and we’ve talked about this before, is just that they take those tools that we were using to relate to each other and then use them with their friends and ultimately their partners and beyond and at work and all of these places. And I just thought, oh, these have really served them, these skills that I had to work on and figure out, too.

ERIKA: Right. And thinking of it as opportunities to use these skills also feels a lot better than hoping that these conflicts never happen and thinking that a perfect relationship is going to be the goal. If I can think more like, any conflict is going to be a chance for us to learn something new and practice these skills, that just feels so much nicer.

PAM: It really does. And holding out the idea that my destination is, “there will not be conflicts,” I think that’s another expectation we might be holding. Good to peel back and see what you think about that one. But yeah, the goal isn’t to never have conflict. It is exploring and finding the tools that work for you right now to help you navigate those moments, because yeah, that’s life.

ERIKA: Well, we have had a lot of fun diving into this topic, obviously, so thank you, Pam and Anna, and thank you to our listeners. We hope that you’ve found this conversation helpful on your unschooling journey. And if you’re looking for individualized support, whether it’s about unschooling, relationships, work, or just life, you can check out all of our coaching options at LivingJoyfullyShop.com.

Have a great week and we will see you next time! Bye!

ANNA AND PAM: Bye!

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EU361: Siblings

Exploring Unschooling

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Sisällön tarjoaa Pam Laricchia. Pam Laricchia tai sen podcast-alustan kumppani lataa ja toimittaa kaiken podcast-sisällön, mukaan lukien jaksot, grafiikat ja podcast-kuvaukset. Jos uskot jonkun käyttävän tekijänoikeudella suojattua teostasi ilman lupaasi, voit seurata tässä https://fi.player.fm/legal kuvattua prosessia.

In this episode, Pam, Anna, and Erika explore the sibling dynamic and some of the questions that come up when unschooling families navigate sibling relationships. We talk about letting go of expectations, watching out for casting our children in roles, understanding our own triggers, and how “fair” doesn’t mean “equal.”

We hope you find our conversation helpful on your unschooling journey!

THINGS WE MENTION IN THIS EPISODE

The Living Joyfully Shop – books, courses, coaching calls, and more!

The Living Joyfully Network

The Living Joyfully Podcast

Watch the video of our conversation on YouTube.

Follow @exploringunschooling on Instagram.

Follow @pamlaricchia on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out our website, livingjoyfully.ca for more information about navigating relationships and exploring unschooling.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive The Living Joyfully Dispatch, our biweekly email newsletter, and get a free copy of Pam’s intro to unschooling ebook, What is Unschooling?

We invite you to join us in The Living Joyfully Network, a wonderful online community for parents to connect and engage in candid conversations about living and learning through the lens of unschooling. This month, we’re talking about Celebrating Interests. Come and be part of the conversation!

So much of what we talk about on this podcast and in the Living Joyfully Network isn’t actually about unschooling. It’s about life. On The Living Joyfully Podcast, Anna Brown and Pam Laricchia talk about life, relationships, and parenting. You can check out the archive here, or find it in your your favorite podcast player.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ERIKA: Hello, everyone! I’m Erika Ellis from Living Joyfully, and we are so glad you have joined us for this episode of the Exploring Unschooling podcast. I’m joined by my co-hosts, Pam Laricchia and Anna Brown. Welcome to you both!

ANNA AND PAM: Hello!
ERIKA: Hi! So, on today’s episode, we are diving into a really popular topic, and that is siblings. So many of the questions we receive on the podcast are about sibling relationships, and it’s also a huge topic of discussion on the Living Joyfully Network.

On the Network, members can share specific challenges they’re facing and it just opens up these amazing discussions since our community has such a wide variety of experiences. I know I always take something away from our conversations that helps me see things in my own life with my family in a new way. And everyone on the Network is really being intentional and open and curious, and that just creates such a great atmosphere for learning and growing as a parent and as a human.

And so, if you’d like to learn more about the Network and check it out for yourself, visit livingjoyfully.ca/network, because we would love to meet you.

And now onto our discussion for today, Siblings. Do you want to get us started, Pam?

PAM: Absolutely. I would love to get us started. And, knowing me, I think it can be so helpful to start with exploring our expectations, because there are so many conventional messages around siblings that we need to explore so that we can let them go.

We can’t skip this stage by saying to ourselves, “I release my expectations. I know I shouldn’t have them,” because trying to bury them that way won’t last long. They will bubble up in our energy. They will bubble up in our word choice. Even if we don’t consciously recognize that we’re bringing them in, they will bubble up, because they are part of our essence right now.

So, we need to do the work to discover the expectations that we personally hold and dig into them to understand where they come from, explore the implicit messages for our kids that we are subtly communicating, and just see if they actually make sense for us.

So, for example, I think an expectation that a lot of us hold, certainly when we first have kids, is that our kids will be the best of friends. Of course, our family will get along! Of course, the kids will be nice to one another and play together and help each other out! When they grow up, they will be the best of friends. Even if we didn’t get along with our siblings, we envision it’ll be different this time. It’ll be better for our kids. I think that’s a great one to pull apart a bit and just ask ourselves some questions. Why do we think that? Do we think that the shared genetics means that they’ll naturally get along? Or is it the close proximity? They live in the same house. They know each other so well. Of course they’ll develop deep and meaningful connections that will last them a lifetime.

Does telling them, “Be nice to one another! You’re siblings!” work? So, I think it starts to seem a little bit unrealistic when we peel back the layers around the connection between being siblings and being friends, because those are actually very different things, and so much so because people are different.

That genetic connection really isn’t going to take you far, I don’t think. People are incredibly and beautifully so different, aren’t they?

ANNA: Oh my gosh. This one’s a big one for me, just for my personal journey. I have two girls, now adults, but they are pretty close in age, like less than two years. And I would say, early on, they really were the best of friends and always playing together and it had this idealistic feel, with its own bumps along the way. And then when they got to the preteen, early teen years, I saw this need for them to define themselves separately.

They’re very different, like you said. I mean, could not be more different in every way. And at that stage it just really highlighted that. They wanted people that were more in line with different aspects of themselves. There were even times where it wasn’t like fighting necessarily, but there was a little bit of that, but it was more just this distance, and so I really had to do work, and it kind of hit me by surprise, to just really let that go. They may never be friends. They may not hang out together when they’re older like that. May not ever happen. And it was only then through that releasing that I was able to actually see them and facilitate what they needed at that time.

And they have a fine relationship now. They’re not the best of friends, but we enjoy being together as a family, all of those pieces. But I know that had I really harped on that and stayed there, I think it would’ve gotten really ugly. And so, I think just watching for when these things bubble up, like you said, there’s all these external messages and they can hit us at odd and different times and understanding that we’re all different and move through things differently is just so, so important.

ERIKA: Yeah. I feel like I benefited from your learning about this, because on the Network, I was able to hear a lot about the different phases that kids go through. And so, I definitely have noticed myself clinging to those times when they are playing so well together and making each other laugh so hard. And those moments just feel so great. And so, I had some fear, as they’re getting older, like, what if they stopped doing that? How’s that going to feel for me? I was afraid of that ending.

But I feel like it’s been less scary than I was anticipating, just because I’m so actively observing who they are every step of the way. And so, the decisions that they’re making now and the choices that they make and the way they’re relating to each other now just kind of make sense to me. I see who they are and I’m not putting my wishes or expectations or this fantasy life that I could imagine ahead of who they really are in reality, in this moment, as they’re growing.

And so, I think that’ll really help as they continue to grow and as their relationship continues to change over the next years. And so, that was one part.

But I think that’s not the only expectation even that we have potentially about siblings is that they’ll be friends. It’s like, the big brother who will be the protector or there’s all these different potential things that we’ve learned about as we are growing up and what we experienced maybe with our own siblings, like, what are the dynamics? What is the older sibling supposed to be like? And what’s the little baby sibling supposed to be like?

And so, just recognizing that so many of those things are just stories and cultural ideas that don’t really have anything to do with these actual different people who are right here showing us who they are.

ANNA: And that leads to one that I want to talk about that’s related and a little bit different and that is the roles that we tend to cast people in. And our brain can just do that for a lot of different reasons that we don’t even have to go into. But it is something to watch for, because it’s like that. The big brother’s going to be this. That’s one aspect of roles, but another one is these assumptions that we make about a person. “You’re the shy one. You’re the sporty one. You’re this one.” That really pits siblings against each other, because neither is feeling heard or none are feeling heard. None are feeling seen for who they truly are. And so, that piece you were talking about, Erika, where you see them, you know them, you celebrate who they are uniquely, that is actually what creates a family that feels good, because we’re all feeling heard and seen individually, without these expectations of, we are one way, we are another way.

I read the book Siblings Without Rivalry when my girls were very young, like infant and two, because I was going to get ahead of it, right? My partner, his relationship with his brother is terrible. And so, actually, I found the book interesting, because I could see his life playing out in that book. How the roles were cast, how it was created that they would hate each other. And ultimately, they’ve found their peace to some extent as they’ve gotten older. But it’s like, oh! It was not mal-intent at all, but it’s just not giving intentionality to, how am I showing up? Am I really tuning into who this unique person is in front of me?

PAM: I love that. So, it’s something that we’ve talked about, looking at your child as an individual. What do they like? Who are they? How do they move through the world? And how deep that is. That is so important in this topic, too, in sibling relationships, to be able to see them as an individual versus a role. Because yes, that role, then it’s like, does one parent prefer the sporty one? So, now we are going to have this closer relationship. Oh, we’re introverts. We’ll stay in and sit in a room, whatever, so it just messes with all the relationships. It messes with the sibling relationships. It can mess with parent-child relationships, which then affects the sibling relationships, because then it becomes competitive.
When we start bringing roles in, we are not looking at the individual. It’s like, okay, we understand them. We’ve now got this definition for them that we can use in substitute, because it’s faster to think about sporty person than it is, this is my child that loves hockey or loves football and loves this part of it and wants to play it all the time. The individual nuances of sport are just so valuable in having a relationship with that person, in connecting with that person, and in supporting that person in the pieces that they enjoy.

And if we cast them so much in that role, we don’t think about them in the bigger picture. They may want to grow beyond it. It really makes it so hard for us to connect with the people in our family. And one thing that I love, and I guess we can link to it in the show notes, is the whole idea of a family of individuals. That idea hit me because I did a lot of processing around this, and the idea of our family as a family of individuals versus language that talks about, we are a family that does this or we are a family that does that. Not only casting the people into their own individual roles, we’re casting the family into a role that, we always get along with each other. We always do this or we are a sporty family and that poor one child that really is not interested just gets dragged along to all these events.

But that’s the great thing. Think about it through your family’s lens, the individuals that are in your family.

And for me, the a-ha moment that came out of that was recognizing that at first I was thinking about the idea of fairness. At holiday time or birthdays, they all get this number of gifts. Or if we go out, they all get this kind of thing. I spend the same amount when we travel here or we do this thing. So, when I started digging into that, it’s like, oh, they are such different people. If one of my kids wanted a baseball glove or something that supported their sport love, and then I was like, oh, I want to be fair. I don’t want them fighting over the thing. I give everybody a baseball glove, as an example, you can quickly see. The other child sticks that in the closet and it never comes out again.

So, for me, taking that idea of fair and alongside the idea that people are different, I started to realize that the question for me was more the idea of feeling equally loved. What would that look like for each child? Because when you start thinking of it through that lens, it would look very different for each child. So, in some seasons, one child will need more of your attention to actively process through a challenge that they’re going through maybe, and another child who’s loving that sport needs more of the family budget right now, because they’re traveling for games and stuff like that. And maybe another just needs more of your presence right now, because they’re embracing a cocooning season and just knowing that you’re there for them just helps them feel good.

And you can see how, in that situation, they would all feel equally loved. But how you are with them looks very, very different. And it’s that equally loved piece that helps keep that competition out of the sibling relationships. It helps them recognize that, oh, we all have value, we’re all loved, and we’re very different people, and it looks very different for each of us. So, there is just such depth to talking about sibling relationships, isn’t there?

ANNA: And we get there by seeing them as unique people and not the roles. That’s the work of how to get to that place of, what does that even feel like?

ERIKA: Right, because fair doesn’t really even make sense once you start to think that people are different. It’s not even a thing anymore.

And I feel like what’s interesting about the fairness part is it’s coming from the place of the parent showing love. That is the point of it. Like, I want to be doing a very good job as a parent, so I want to make sure that everything is fair.

And so, I grew up that way. And I made a really intentional choice to not ever bring any fairness language into my interactions with my own kids as they were growing up. And I really do think it made a big difference in their relationship. And I’m sure it’s personality-based, too. But I grew up with a lot of messages about making sure everything was equal and fair, and I see it with my mom when she interacts with my kids, like, “I can play with you for 10 minutes and then I’m going to go play with your sister for 10 minutes,” and she’ll do that without even really realizing what she’s doing, because it’s overwhelming to have both kids coming at her and she wants to make sure that they’re both getting their time. It’s coming from a place of caring about them and wanting to do a good job.

And yet then I see how, if that’s the way it is, over and over, it starts to be like, but it’s my turn. And that’s not fair. She got more minutes. And so, we just haven’t had that type of discussion with our kids. They don’t really do that. “But it’s not fair,” is not really something that we hear.

And so, I don’t think my natural state from birth would be to be competitive. I feel like I’ve always been super aware and concerned about other people’s feelings and would have wanted more of that type of relationship with my siblings, where I would’ve wanted them to get what they needed and celebrating people, all of our family, as different individuals and wanting to support each other in getting what we all needed.

But instead, it did turn more into, but now she got that, what do I get? Really making sure that we’re competing. And so, I don’t know. It does feel like something that’s learned, that fair means equal thing.

PAM: Yeah, I think they don’t think children are capable of supporting each other, of taking other people’s, their siblings’, needs into account. I think they do learn to compare and that is what unlikely through our language and through our loving wish, that we treat them all equal so that they all feel equally loved. But it’s not a comparison thing. It’s not a tit for tat thing.

It really is supporting them as the individual. Like your example, Erika, is just brilliant. Ten minutes each child, because, what if one child just wanted to show her something that would take three minutes and the other one wants to get into a deep discussion that would take 15? You’ve got practically 20 minutes each way, but you’ve left one kid who showed them for two minutes and then is bored trying to keep them occupied for the next seven minutes of the 10 minutes, and then the other one feels like, oh, I didn’t get enough time, but I wanted to show you a little bit more. So, they’re both left feeling like the connection wasn’t what they were looking for just because it was equally divided. It’s fascinating.

ANNA: It really is. And I do want to say, this is going to be a little bit of a counterpoint, but because I’m thinking of my own two girls very close in age, and I’m thinking of a friend with three girls very close in age, sometimes it did mean we needed two Switches or we needed three things, and it wasn’t so much about fair is equal.

It’s more like, but wait a minute! I want to play the new thing, too! And so, I had to let go of this idea or maybe this is another expectation, that siblings are going to share. Because no, not always. Sometimes we need two things and we need three things, because we’re all wanting to engage with whatever that thing is. So, this isn’t about these perfect children that are sitting there, but there is a mindset piece to it. So, I just wanted to throw that in there.

ERIKA: Right and if they have more of an experience of like, our needs are going to get met and what I care about is important, then they’re much more likely to be expressing what they want as what they actually want. And so, if Oliver says, “Why did Maya get that? I want that,” I believe him. It’s not about competing with her. It’s like, “I also want that.” And then that totally makes sense.

PAM: Yeah. Completely. Because it’s them being themselves and wanting to engage in the things that they’re interested in.

So, yeah, if somebody got one thing, that’s the difference. If you think about a family where fair is being determined as equal, they see somebody getting something else that’s popular, it’s like, I need to have that, too, so that you’re being fair. So, it’s a power thing. And they need it. And they want it and it sits in the shelf, but I got it through that expression of, yes. I have equal power in in this family. I will get those things.

But if somebody gets something and everybody’s loving it and they want more time with it, yes. You get another one and then maybe another one, and maybe one for the parent.

ANNA: Yeah and it wasn’t the Nintendo Switch back in the day. What is that thing, Pam, that we have? A DS. Yeah. So, all four of us had the DS, David, me, and the girls, because we all wanted to engage with it. And there were moments where I was like, this is ridiculous that we have four of these. And other times where I’m like, it brought us so much joy and was so fun and it just made a lot of sense.
So, yeah, definitely that. Yeah. But can I go onto a different topic?
One of the things I wanted to talk about, because it comes up a lot with siblings, we see it on the Network and other places is when there’s conflicts. So, we have the fights or the different things happening or escalations happening. And I just wanted to really talk about, for me, I can have a justice button. And so, I really had to watch for my own triggers. What was being triggered in me? Am I worried about the younger one? Am I feeling like this one’s taking advantage? Whatever it was.

I noticed all of that was not about what was in front of me. It was a lot about my own experience as a sibling, my own experience at school with those type of dynamics. And so, I really wanted to watch for those triggers, so that I could set that aside. Because what I wanted to bring to a potential conflict or an actual conflict was this neutral observer role, a facilitator, but not someone that’s passing judgment.

So, if I hear screaming in the other room, it’s coming in like, whoa, everybody’s upset. Let’s just take a pause. What’s going on? Tell me what’s happening. I wanted to bring that kind of calm energy of, I’m not passing a judgment about it.

And that helped so much. Then I could hear them. And I want to talk about validation later. I’ll let you guys talk in just a second, but bring that energy of, I want to understand and we’re going to work this out. And you mentioned that a little bit too, Erika.
When we have that trust that I’m going to be heard, nobody’s going to be judging me, we’re going to figure this out, those conflicts can be deescalated much faster than in other environments where there’s judging and you have to defend and explain and you feel like you’re not being heard.

ERIKA: Yeah. The triggers are hard though. This is one of the really hard things, I think, about being a parent, because we’re not always or maybe ever conscious of all these different things that are trapped within us, these old wounds or old things that have happened. And so, to be unaware of that and then go into this new situation and realize, oh my gosh, I really am holding a lot of something uncomfortable about what’s happening here.

I’ve seen it play out with different parents really thinking that the older child should know better. The older child gets viewed as, well, they’re older, so they shouldn’t ever be doing this to the younger child or something. And expecting more from that older child than what makes sense for their age. And so, it helps to just be aware of the children where they are. They’re all doing the best they can, the same as we are, and just realizing that if we’re feeling something that’s so strong and heavy towards an interaction, it’s got to be something more within ourselves to peel back.

PAM: Yeah, I love that. Just noticing something’s bubbling up and it’s like, oh, maybe this feels bigger than the situation warrants.

When you have a second child, the first child just looks so much older. Even if they’re only four or they’re only five, you know? But all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, you are just so much bigger, so much more seemingly capable than this young one here. So, it’s back to expectations. We can put so many expectations on them, and maybe we’ve worked through it once or twice. “We’ve talked about this before! You don’t do that.” Meeting them where they are, and knowing and learning who they are and helping them process and move through the situation, it is just incredible. It’s night and day.

It’s so valuable to walk in without judgments or preconceived notions into a moment. Also, I think to walk in with no preconceived solution to it. If I walk in knowing, “Okay, this happened again, you should be doing this, and you should be doing that. And please remember what I said next time this happens. Do that again, please.” That’s just not how human beings tick. It’s not how they learn, memorizing someone else’s solution. It’s back to people are different. Memorizing how someone else moves most comfortably through a conflict just is not it. Sure, it’s great information to have, maybe, like, oh yeah, that’s how they like to move through it, but what works for me? I need to play with all sorts of different ways to move through it.

And I think it also becomes, again, back to the individual, for some kids being there and having the conversation together works. It helps move them through tit. I know for my kids for a while, as we were learning these tools, it was really helpful just to scatter when things got overwhelming and then I could talk to each of them individually. Because when we were together and we had moved to unschooling, there was that defensiveness, there was still a bit of that power dynamic where, “No, they don’t get to do that,” or, “I get to do that,” and it was hard to validate one child in front of somebody else. (We’ll get to validation next.) And so, to be able to talk to them individually and process individually and come up with plans, “Next time maybe, what would feel good? What might we try?”

And just to play with things and play with different ways to move through it. And that took time. That took months, years, and it doesn’t matter how long. I don’t want given amount of time. Like if I do this for this long, then this will be solved and we’ll move on to something else. Again, it’s the individual people in front of you. Some pieces of it they might pick up really quickly. Other pieces may take a lot of time for them to find their way through it, and then to be able to remember that when we’re in a heightened moment is even another step.

When we’re triggered, we know how hard it is to try and come back to this moment and be present with the other people in it, even as adults. All human beings are going to be challenged by that. To have the expectation that our kids will figure it out and then be able to do it for the rest of their lives, that’s just a pretty heavy one for them to hold.

ANNA: And so, I feel like this leads into validation from a lot of different directions, because I think when we understand our kids as unique creatures, their own people, that helps us with the validation piece. Because validation really is tuning into the individual in front of you. And it’s helpful to remember, we don’t have to agree or even understand their experience to hear and validate and show up for it.

And I’ve told this story many times before, but we had a friend over and the girls were young and screaming breaks out. I’m visiting with this old friend in one room and screaming breaks out in the other room and I go down there and she’s observing me, this friend who does not have kids.

And my oldest is like, “I hate her! I never want a sister!” The whole nine yards is coming out. Just all the big language. All the everything. And I just was calm with her. Like, “You just wish you’d never had a sister at all. You are just so angry right now and you just want her gone. You just don’t want a sister.” And just really validating those big, hard emotions. And she’s like, “Well. It’s not that. I just wish she would listen.” And she was able to move through, because I wasn’t scared by her big language. I didn’t go, “But you love her and she means well and she didn’t want to do this,” and the kind of explaining that we tend to do, because we can be protective for the young one who we love and that feels scary.

But five minutes, two minutes later, they’re back playing happily together. And my friend’s like, “What in the world just happened? How did we go from, I thought the house was going to burn down to, they’re just playing and laughing again?” And I was like, “She just needed to feel heard in that moment.” She was super frustrated. They’re young, they’re figuring things out, like super frustrated. And I could hear that, because I don’t have to take in and defend her sister. And like you said, sometimes it’s separating, so that I can validate little sister who’s like, “She is being mean, she’s doing this,” whatever it is.

But I think one of the pieces I want to get about validation when we’re talking about it with siblings is, even the hard stuff. Even the ugly stuff. Even the things like that, we need to validate and be with them, because that’s how we move through those hard emotions is by that validation.

PAM: The language that feels to us like it’s over the top, it may just be the language that they have. They’re just trying to express their emotions. But we have that nuance. So, when we can come to them and see and hear and validate, what we’re validating is the emotion, we’re validating them where they are. It’s not really about the language, right?

So, that’s how she could start to see, oh, well it’s this thing. But she needed to be heard that this thing was big for her. And they have a limited amount of language, depending on age, to be able to express that. So, they just pick the biggest words just to show. Validation is all about the other person. It is not about, “I am now saying that I agree with you. What a pain that other child is. Why did we even have them?” That’s not what we’re saying when we say, you never wanted to have a sibling, a brother or sister, whatever. It’s not what we’re saying when we’re validating.

We’re not agreeing because we validate. We are meeting them, showing them that we see them, that we see whatever it is, whatever energy that they’re having, emotion that they’re having in that moment. It just makes all the difference to feeling seen and heard. And through those conversations, that’s where they’re practicing the skills. It’s like, oh yeah, that wasn’t actually that. It was, “I wasn’t being heard.” And through a few times of that, then they can get first to the, “I’m not feeling heard,” but they need lots of time to practice that and to start identifying that, to find the nuances so they can start to recognize them, and then they can get to that place themselves. And then we meet them where they’re saying, “They’re not listening to me,” and then we work through that piece. It’s hard and it’s so beautiful, too.

ERIKA: Yeah. I feel like we’re getting to a point that I was hoping to make, which is just how often these sibling relationships are the fertile learning ground for how to interact with another human. And so, yeah, it’s challenging and they are coming without these skills, and yet here are all of these great opportunities. So, I feel like just knowing that and having that idea in my mind helps me in the moments of conflict. If I can think, this is what it’s all about. Navigating these conflicts and doing this well with them and validating them and really hearing them out and helping them learn to express themselves, helping them learn to narrate for themselves, all of those kinds of skills, it’s going to help them for the rest of their lives. Navigating conflict is not going to be something that goes away throughout life. And so, one of the values in having a sibling is these opportunities to learn some of these relating skills.
And validating is so much easier, like you were saying, when we are looking at them as individuals and not in their roles and that can tend to be a place where I get stuck, if I’m thinking, but you don’t do that. Or, but you aren’t like that, or, but you should know better. And so, I love how all these things are connected in this topic.

PAM: Yeah, I love that point, Erika. The validation looks so different for each child, more than likely, and with our partner, but we’re talking about siblings today, but yes, it is so individual, because it really helps to know the individual to be able to play with the language. Again, it’s not, here are the steps to validating. Please do that next time your child is upset. We all wish there were rules or a procedure that we could follow that works for everybody. But we are all different. We are all individuals. And it can change over time and it changes over seasons and skills and as we change as human beings.

But it’s just so fascinating to recognize the value of it. For me, it goes back to our dance metaphor in relationships. I may say a little something that just doesn’t seem to quite land, but then I say something else and I keep trying. And that may be how I’m getting more information.

I also wanted to add, and I know we’ve talked about this before with validation and we’ll link to some of our older episodes, too, but also maybe in the moment, validation isn’t about words. For a couple of my kids when things were heightened, validation was about just being with them. Just being with the energy, meeting them with that energy. You alluded to that, Anna, too, just being that grounded presence where they know, “Hey, they can stay in the room even when I’m super upset. And I’m still okay and I will get through.” There are so many messages communicated when I can just be there with them and we’ll more than likely have short, long, lots of conversations later for the processing piece. But also just processing through the energy might be something that needs to be done in silence. Any additional energy that I bring just can’t be absorbed yet. Conversation can’t be had.

So, we might think that validation must be about conversation. I just wanted to say that it’s never just one thing. What does your child need in that moment? That is the most important thing, not some sort of process somebody told you about.

ANNA: Right. It really is. So, for me, it’s watching my own self, grounding myself, and then showing up however is needed, because we’re going to get those clues. We’re going to get clues from our child. If they’re wanting a conversation about it, if they’re just wanting us to be there, if they’re wanting us to help them pull out of a situation.

Because sometimes there’s this headbutting going on and they’re just needing our help to move things along and change things up or be with them. But I feel like I get there best to see those pieces when I’m grounded, when I’ve watched for my triggers, when I’m not coming into it with that activated energy.

ERIKA: Right. “I can handle this,” is a really good feeling. And I know as the upset person, it really feels so good to have someone who can be there for it, and that it feels like, this is okay. Even this is okay.

Parenting siblings benefits from so many of the tools that we talk about. So, validation, of course, narration, definitely, remembering the HALT, hungry, angry, lonely, tired, bringing in the context for our kids, these kinds of narration things.

And I feel like it has also helped when I reflect on past conflicts and show them how we have gotten through them. You know what I mean? This is something that has helped Oliver a lot, because he’ll be really stuck in the moment and feel so angry. And then if we can remember, “You’ve felt like this before. Do you remember that those feelings pass and that we can find a way to make things feel better?”

That memory usually helps settle his nervous system, because you can feel stuck in that moment of conflict and it can feel like you can’t escape. But, I was a kid once. I had siblings. I remember what it was like to feel so angry and so frustrated by them, and we move through it, and just using all of those skills helps so much.

ANNA: Yeah. I love that reminder, because it really is. I mean, that’s why we talk about the same things over and over again, because they apply to so many different situations. So, I’m going to give a quick shout out to the Living Joyfully Podcast, because we really talk about those tools in that specific way and just in relationships in general.

And, like you said, Erika, this is the first intense relationship for them with their sibling and with us and I think it’s made so much more valuable by our presence and by sharing these tools and by talking about things and by being that presence with them and helping them understand that. What I’ve seen with my kids, and we’ve talked about this before, is just that they take those tools that we were using to relate to each other and then use them with their friends and ultimately their partners and beyond and at work and all of these places. And I just thought, oh, these have really served them, these skills that I had to work on and figure out, too.

ERIKA: Right. And thinking of it as opportunities to use these skills also feels a lot better than hoping that these conflicts never happen and thinking that a perfect relationship is going to be the goal. If I can think more like, any conflict is going to be a chance for us to learn something new and practice these skills, that just feels so much nicer.

PAM: It really does. And holding out the idea that my destination is, “there will not be conflicts,” I think that’s another expectation we might be holding. Good to peel back and see what you think about that one. But yeah, the goal isn’t to never have conflict. It is exploring and finding the tools that work for you right now to help you navigate those moments, because yeah, that’s life.

ERIKA: Well, we have had a lot of fun diving into this topic, obviously, so thank you, Pam and Anna, and thank you to our listeners. We hope that you’ve found this conversation helpful on your unschooling journey. And if you’re looking for individualized support, whether it’s about unschooling, relationships, work, or just life, you can check out all of our coaching options at LivingJoyfullyShop.com.

Have a great week and we will see you next time! Bye!

ANNA AND PAM: Bye!

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