Why divorce can cause sibling rivalry – and how to prevent it

On Behalf of | Sep 29, 2021 | Child Custody & Visitation

You may think that it’s easier for kids to go through a parental divorce when they have siblings – particularly if they’re close in age. An only child may feel like no one understands what they’re feeling or going through. Siblings can support each other through all the changes to the family.

Indeed, siblings can be a source of comfort to one another. However, parental divorce can also cause -– or worsen –- sibling rivalries. 

Why does sibling rivalry worsen amid divorce?

If a child already doesn’t feel like they’re getting as much attention – or love — as their sibling, they may feel even more neglected and unloved when their parents are splitting time and responsibilities – and likely wrapped up in their own problems. Competition for parental love and attention can grow fierce.

Blame is a common source of sibling conflict during and after divorce. Children – especially younger ones – often blame themselves for their parents’ split. When you have a sibling, it’s easy to turn that blame on them. That’s particularly true if one sibling has special needs or issues that have been a source of parental stress in the past. It’s easy for siblings to blame each other for the break-up and lash out at one another.

What can parents do to ease sibling rivalry?

All parents need to reassure kids that the divorce has nothing to do with them. When you have more than one child, it’s crucial to reassure them all of that -– separately and together. 

When you’re splitting parenting duties, you often feel like you don’t have enough time to give to your children. However, it’s crucial. It’s also essential that you watch for signs of distress in all your children. Just because one is acting out and the other is quiet and agreeable, that doesn’t mean the quiet one is okay and doesn’t need as much attention. They’re likely just processing things differently.

Working out a custody agreement and parenting plan when you have two or more children requires extra care. It’s typically best when siblings stay together unless there are extremely unusual circumstances. However, just because they may move back and forth together, that doesn’t mean they need the same things. With experienced legal guidance, you can work out an agreement that helps your kids grow closer rather than further apart.