Coping with Sibling Abuse as a Parent

By Matt Bulkley | Blog Education Series

STAR Guides Wilderness - Coping with Sibling Abuse as a Parent

Sibling abuse, whether sexual or physical, can have many detrimental effects on the growth of a child. It usually occurs when a dominant older sibling verbally, physically, or sexually abuses a younger sibling. In some instances, parents disregard the abuse as being “normal” sibling rivalry and they don’t intervene. If you observe signs of any type of sibling abuse in your children, then you should remember the following dos and don’ts:

Don’ts

  • The first thing that you shouldn’t do is overlook the incident. If you see signs of abuse, make sure you investigate further.
  • Don’t react immediately; speak to the children and understand the situation completely.
  • You shouldn’t react aggressively towards either the victim or the instigator. Handing out punishments or using fear won’t be effective in discouraging the behavior.
  • The victims don’t need to be humiliated or shamed; they are already feeling these emotions.
  • Do not take sides; for example, if you only try to protect the victim, then the perpetrator will feel neglected and may act out even more.
  • Don’t assume that you can “fix” this issue on your own.

Dos

  • You should remain in complete control of the situation, and to do that, you should control your emotions first.
  • Putting some distance between the involved siblings can be useful.
  • Speak to each child separately and listen carefully to what they have to say about the situation.
  • Include your significant other in the conversation as well, and caution them about losing their temper.
  • You can have a family meeting to discuss the abuse issue and establish boundaries.
  • Do state the consequences of breaking the rules clearly.
  • Try to keep a close eye on the children whenever they spend time together and see if your plan of action is working.
  • Contact a therapist if the abuse continues or if the situation feels too much for you to handle.

These dos and don’ts will help you to handle the sibling abuse situations better. But you have to accept the fact that in certain instances, your children will require a therapy program to deal with their issues. STAR Guides Wilderness offers therapy programs for victims, as well as offenders, and teaches them to cope with their issues and lead a healthy and fulfilling life.

About the Author

Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.

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