Top tips for older brothers and sisters at home
Courtesy of Newstead Wood School, Orpington, Kent (part of the United Learning group of schools)
Some children and young people will find themselves in the demanding position of being a part-time teacher to a younger brother or sister. Here’s some advice on how to make it work:
- It’s very normal and understandable for younger brothers and sisters (and you!) to want to be active and run around – especially with these new routines we are all developing. So, even though it feels like it, they are doing this to cope, not exclusively to cause stress!
- Working at home, especially with parents/brother/sisters can be really difficult and it is helpful to try to develop a flexible new routine e.g. while it’s not reasonable to expect your brother or sister never to bounce around at all, could there be agreed times – indicated by the door being closed, or a sign on the door – when you are working and need the room to be quiet? The sign is good because it will be a visual reminder of what you are doing.
- Having this routine will also help you. You don’t need to be working all of the time, so having this routine means you also have proper time to relax. It would be really helpful to sit down with your brother or sister and have a quick chat together. If they understand why your work is important to you, and what you have to do, this will help them to understand why you are asking them not to bounce around. For example:
“I really like English and I’ve worked hard on reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and it’s important to me to do well because I want to get into a good university.”
“Now I need to write a paragraph on the book, which will probably take me about an hour”
- It is impossible to replace any behaviour (like bouncing around) with nothing. What works better is giving choices, for example, “Remember, we don’t run around – but would you like to draw a picture or watch Frozen?”
- It sounds simple but giving younger siblings a choice is a really helpful strategy, which works with all people (adults included), as it gives us a sense of control. We’re not saying it will be easy or that they will take to it straight away, but over time it is helpful.
- If they have lots of excess energy, then maybe some of the choices could be active and realistic in the home space, for example, star jumps on the spot, or a Joe Wicks PE video.
- It can also be helpful to ‘name their need’ - that means recognising why they are jumping around, for example, “I can see that you’re bouncing around
- It’s very important for you to remember that, whilst you are keen to help and support, you are not responsible for your brother or sister doing their schoolwork. This is a strange time for everyone and parents/carers up and down the nation are getting used to becoming teachers. It’s not easy to follow school routines and expectations at home – so, try not to worry, you don’t have to be a teacher too!