THE BLOG

Travel: A Great Builder And Repairer Of Sibling Relationships

14/03/2017 15:42 GMT | Updated 14/03/2017 15:42 GMT

Anecdotally, we tend to talk about siblings as being thick as thieves, or chalk and cheese, but in reality we parents all know they can easily be both in the space of an hour.

In our home, this often stems from having different interests. There is a four year gap between our eldest, a nine year old boy, and our youngest, a five year old girl, so naturally they're not always into the same things.

They're also quite different characters, and while their personalities can sometimes complement each other perfectly, resulting in much fun and laughter, those differences can also make for some pretty explosive clashes.

As the exhaustion heightens towards the end of the school term, they start to wind each other up more and more and we know that they're in need of a break. To repair those fractured bonds and get them back to being great friends, we need to get out of the house and go adventuring.

When it comes to helping them build and/or repair a strong rapport with each other, we've found travel, unexpectedly, to be the single greatest way to bring our kids back together.

Of course travel doesn't need to be a huge holiday abroad - a trip to the local adventure playground, a couple of days in a B&B at the seaside, or a jaunt to an unfamiliar city can all be done on a budget, and can be just as rewarding and productive when it comes to sibling bonding

A break from the norm

Just as happens with adults, being on holiday and away from the daily grind is naturally conducive to my kids getting along better.

Take peer pressure, homework, chores and school routines out of the mix, and they're simply more relaxed. The result? Less squabbling, more shared play, which gives the adults a chance to take a step back from refereeing duties

And of course, when we're on holiday we naturally switch off from work and do more as a family, which in turn has an impact on how well we all get along.

We spend more time on the fun stuff, and less on the chores, so the kids are bound to be in a better mood (we all are!) and far more likely to enjoy each other's company.

Safety of the pack

When travelling in new surroundings, there's comfort to be found in the familiar.

Inevitably, when faced with new people and places, we automatically pull together as a tighter family unit. We're more of a team; looking out for each other, and looking to each other for entertainment.

In this environment the kids enjoy each other's company more naturally; they become a little double-act, sticking together as they enter a play area for the first time, having shared adventures, introducing each other to new friends, and ganging up against the grown-ups for a bit of a laugh.

Shared experiences

Bonding over trying something new is also a key factor in bringing children together when travelling.

I see this in my kids every time we go on holiday; we like to have a go at new activities, and sometimes they get a bit apprehensive. When this happens, they are there for each other straight away.

On our last holiday we went for it on a climbing wall challenge, and while the kids were totally up for it, they were a bit scared too. It was amazing to watch them encouraging each other, working together to get higher and higher on the wall, and reliving their achievement afterwards. This just wouldn't have happened on your typical day at home.

Taking a step back

The really great part is that when faced with new travel challenges, kids just seem to do all of this completely naturally.

We don't do any coaxing or mediating. There's no content chiding, "Be nice to your sister!" They just get on with having fun together, totally oblivious to the subtle shift in their relationship and the positive effect it has on all of us.

There are lots of elements of travelling with kids that can be pretty stressful, but for us sibling relations is actually one thing that actively helps to take the pressure off.

Back in the real world

So what happens when we return to home? Is it all roses forever after? Of course not, that would be a fantasy, but there is a marked change.

Inevitably, all the other influences return, but that lovely close sibling relationship carries through to how they interact in mundane tasks and evening family time. They're kinder to each other, more co-operative, less irritated by each other's company. For a few weeks at least.

Travel is powerful for lots of reasons, but the opportunity to reconnect and redress the sibling balance, while spending lots of family time together making great memories, is the thing I look forward to the most.

Emily Leary is a Nottingham based writer, presenter and blogger, whose website A Mummy Too shares daily food and lifestyle tips for busy families. @AMummyToo