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Sibling Harmony: Help Your Kids Get Along

Sibling Differences

Sibling rivalry: My sons couldn't be more different: The 13-year-old is popular; the older one is a loner. This used to mean lots of fireworks. Now it's more heartbreaking because they have little to do with each other.

Sibling revelry: "Sometimes you have to lower your expectations and accept that your kids may never be best friends," says Stark. Forcing the issue may only build up friction. When kids have very different personalities, parents must develop a culture of respect in the family for each temperament.

If your older son tends to spend time in his room, help your younger son understand that his brother isn't being rude or grouchy, he's probably just recharging himself, says Lois Braverman, CEO and president of the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York City. Accommodating different or even conflicting personalities doesn't mean, however, that everyone should go his own way. "The strongest sibling relationships are associated with siblings who spend meaningful time together in the company of one or both parents," says McHale. "It may very well be that parents are there to help orchestrate a positive experience and to help kids find common ground." It can be as simple as sharing a daily meal or watching a TV show together.

"Whatever you try, don't do any of the things that pull them apart, like locking them into roles as the "good" one or the "smart" one or by showing favoritism," says Adele Faber, coauthor of Siblings Without Rivalry (HarperCollins). "If you clear the road, brothers and sisters will find a way to each other. It just may not be until one leaves for college or they're adults. Ultimately, though, the tie siblings have can bring them great comfort in life."