In her new book "Tending the Family Heart," Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker lists a few easy ways to encourage siblings to attend each other's sports games, dance recitals, and other extracurricular activities.
Start young, and do it often.
Things become routine when they are done routinely. Like most things, children accept that they will, of course, attend each other's events when it's been a matter of course from the first time one of them hit a ball, got on skates, or was a tulip in the kindergarten play.
Prep the audience.
Kids (and adults, for that matter) are much more interested in something when they know what is going on. Talk about what the game is about before you go, while you are there, after it's over. Help them know what to watch for. Talk with the star of the day about what he or she most hopes will happen and how you can all help.
Just as their attention span for all things except Super Mario is short, young kids' ability to sustain interest at events is limited. If you come prepared, they will be able to take a break intermittently and you won't end up angry at them for being fidgety.
Bring a tote bag packed with coloring books, paper, markers and crayons, a few picture books, a Frisbee, granola bars, and boxes of juice to every game. Try to be sensitive to ages and stages in expectations for good bleacher behavior. When siblings are up at bat, on the ice, or sent into the game, get the rest of the family involved in cheering them on. When there are time-outs, halftimes, or long waiting times, pull out the stuff. As the kids get older, they can be expected to be attentive for longer and longer parts of the games and events.
Find a way to help.
Support can take other forms besides warming the bleachers. Family members might find they enjoy it more when they are involved. If you're going to be there anyway, why not staff the snack table, make sets during rehearsals, be ushers? You'll all learn more about the people and activity your child is involved with. Your child will feel enormously supported by the family's participation and willingness to help. You'll be showing your kids in a very real way that the activities they enjoy don't just happen, but are the result of the love and attention of their families.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is a licensed psychologist and a marriage and family therapist who has been in practice for more than 35 years. A parent of four, she contributes regularly to PsychCentral.com, and her new e-book "Tending the Family Heart" (from which the above is excerpted), is available at www.bn.com and www.amazon.com.
For more advice from Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker's book "Tending The Family Heart," check out Why It's Important For Siblings to Cheer Each Other On.