SIBLING RIVALRY is a survival mechanism that becomes destructive when love is scarce so fear reigns within our tribe of origin.
Humans will fight SIBLINGS for crumbs of love and respect, as baby cubs will in the wild … until the emotional death of the relationship if necessary.
In some homes love is rationed out inconsistently by emotionally unavailable elders. In these homes the child or children go to war with each other or themselves fighting for emotional nourishment.
SIBLING RIVALRY is a byproduct of being parented by elders whom lack a robust commitment to self-care. When elders don’t replenish their own sources of joy and relaxation they parent in an emotionally drained state. SIBLINGS work out quickly that the parental cup of love does not hold enough nourishment for one; therefore they compete desperately for their share of its contents.
However, when elders are at peace with themselves and set clear boundaries that preserve their self-care rituals, SIBLINGS can relax. The parental cup then runneth over. In homes where parents emotionally self-care SIBLINGS learn that the elder’s ritual of time to themselves means that the parental cup of love will be replenished, and will again soon runneth over with plenty of love for everyone. In these homes RIVALRY is a less frequent occurrence.
Even in homes where there is only one child, if the elder remains emotionally unavailable the child will still compete with anyone who consumes their parent’s attention. Only children if emotionally malnourished will also make rivals of children from other families that have abundant supplies of loving attention.
So to those of us that are considered elders let’s ensure we are not emotionally unavailable adults. The most loving thing we can do for children is to ensure we look after our own emotional needs first and keep our hearts cup full and flowing.
When on an aircraft in case of an emergency elders are always reminded to put their own oxygen mask on first before tending to children’s physical needs. In our families love is as vital to our emotional survival as oxygen. But we can’t give away what we haven’t got enough of for ourselves.
When I got clean and sober back in 1995 I became a single parent and struggled with the discipline of caring for myself by remaining abstinent as well as being emotionally available for my two young boys.
Rehabs for women with kids were not an option, they were scarce, and I was too riddled with guilt to consider it. So asking for help from their dad to share the parental load felt selfish, but I was not managing and my heart’s cup was running dry by 10am as a single, sober parent. It was selfish and foolish not to ask for help. It was the only responsible thing to do, but my maternal ego resisted for as long as I could.
When I finally asked, thank God, he was happy to help me. Even though my sons saw me less, when I was with them I parented with a full, not drained heart.
Some of my Emotional Fitness clients wrestle with guilt when it comes to self-care and their emotional recovery needs. There are times we do need to surrender our “super parent” capes and either go into rehab or admit to our partner, family or friends that we’re not coping and we need more help. I remind them as I was so wisely told years ago, that if we had physical trauma, let’s say a broken arm and leg, we would be unable to physically care for our children fully until we healed and it would be wise to ask for help.
For those of us with emotional wounding via addiction or neglected heart trauma we too are unable to fully emotionally care for our children until we attend to our heart’s healing. Emotionally drained elders are a recipe for SIBLING RIVALRY to grow.
SIBLING RIVALRY diminishes if we support all children (including the one that still lives within us) by giving them a routine of reliable and private one-on-one time to access to our heart. We understand the importance of date night with our partner; we also require date night (morning or afternoon, sometimes it’s a week, month or more) with ourselves too. Then once we have refuelled our emotional energy, quality one-on-one time with young ones is a pure joy, not a chore.
One-on-one routines with our ourselves, our partners and our children are essential for emotional intimacy to flourish. It also teaches children and SIBLINGS to feel special without needing to be more important. They also learn the art of compromise instead of unhealthy competition with others without losing themselves or damaging their belief that they are worthy of emotional intimacy.
So let’s remember to encourage ourselves or other elders that require a bit of emotional refuelling and time out and that it’s not selfish but responsible parenting to do so. Time out for adults is an often misunderstood remedy to cure SIBLING RIVALRY and build quality intimate relationships with ourselves and others.
Lotsa love Cynthia xxx
© Copyright 2016 Cynthia J. Morton Emotional Fitness™
This Word Vitamin is an excerpt from my latest bookset “The Four Seasons of the Heart”. If you would like to order your own full set of Daily Word Vitamins one for each day of the year, in book form for yourself or as a gift just click on the SHOP tab and place your order.