Sibling bullying needs to be addressed as it may have a lasting impact.
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Cape Town - Sibling bullying may have a lasting impact on children and can lead to long-term psychological distress into adulthood like depression, anxiety, behavioural issues and even self-harm or suicide.
Psychologist Genevieve da Silva said the above depends on the severity of the bullying.
She said when we think about bullying, one of the key factors of identifying it was that there is an imbalance of power – one person is exerting power over another against their will.
“So in a family context, a parent would probably need to ask why one child would feel the need to exert power over the other child. A person feels they need to control another when they feel out of control with themselves.
“So I think a key aspect that any parent can put into place when it comes to helping their children would be a process of emotional regulation and self-awareness and that would mean to sit down with the child who is bullying, and work a process with them to try and understand why such behaviour is in place,” said Da Silva.
She added that a parent should look at what their children feel within the family situation or their own lives, and within their emotional realm, through conversation.
“So working that process of emotional regulation of what feelings a child is feeling, why they are feeling it and what they can do in a better way to express those feelings.
“Something that I find happens quite regularly in families is that there is a process called triangulation and what happens is that when there is conflict between two family members, a third party often steps in and takes the brunt of that conflict so it is never really resolved but rather offloaded onto a third person.”
Da Silva said sometimes when siblings fight, instead of helping them sit down to resolve the conflict through dialogue, some parents opted to find the solution themselves and that is good for the children.
“Let’s help our children to develop conflict management tools to be able to navigate the conflict where it belongs to resolve it and instead of getting in the way and taking it off their shoulders, help them to see it through and work through a process of conflict management with them and the correct parties,” said Da Silva.
Nontobeko Mtanase, who has twins, and a boy, said in her household, her eldest son, 18, often tries to show that he is older and in charge.
“Sometimes they (the twins) don’t like it but I think they understand him because their father passed away. When it gets too much, I try to talk to him immediately,” said Mtanase.
Dianne Moses has five kids. She said while they do argue sometimes, it was nothing bad because they love each other. She said sometimes when her kids get into a fight, she would punish both of them or take phones away.
She added the problem was that her nieces and nephews, who live in the same yard, were always fighting and just don’t get along.
“They argue and sometimes hit each other. The one said he wants to kill himself because nobody loves him. My sister was crying and said she doesn’t know where she went wrong,” said Moses.