Children are vulnerable to various forms of abuse, particularly adult abuse, peer-peer abuse commonly known as bullying, among other forms. Unfortunately, one that is mostly overlooked is sibling abuse, which has in the past, been confused with healthy sibling rivalry. Although sibling abuse has for a long time been labeled as a common rite of passage, research now shows that it is more prevalent than any other form of domestic violence. For the victims, the abuse can be unbearable since they have to bear it every day.
What is Sibling Abuse?
With the federal laws and statutes not recognizing sibling abuse unless a child is turned in by their parents, it becomes extremely difficult to handle and accept the violence. Fortunately, counselors have strongly come in to intervene and help families cope with the ordeal. So, how can you define sibling abuse as a parent? If you notice the inequity in power between your children whether half-brothers/sisters, adoptive siblings or foster siblings where one seems to be in control of the other, that is termed as sibling bullying, which can be, highly harmful to the victim.
There may also be signs of sexual abuse, threatening, and repeated hurt or degrading. Name calling, or ridicule also falls into this category and is one of the worst forms of sibling abuse since this is the period where kids are developing their self-worth. Disregarding remarks especially can lower a child’s esteem leading to long-term effects even in adulthood.
While parents can handle such abuse, it is important to seek the intervention of a professional counselor to help the kids recognize the effect they are causing to each other and why they need to grow and develop as equals. This form of violence has been seen to mostly result from delinquency, aggression, and substance use. Abuse can range from mild such as pushing and shoving to aggression such as using weapons that could cause harm.
The Effects of Sibling Abuse
Studies show that the long-term effects of sibling abuse include psychological and physical aggression. These can lead to instances of depression, anger, and anxiety all the way to adulthood. Just as bullying, sibling abuse can cause major mental health concerns in victims. If you notice one of your kids being abused by the other, contact a professional counselor before the problem escalates. If the abuse is more of sexual, the kids need immediate professional involvement, for the victim to recover and the perpetrator to stop. When children find it impossible to communicate, they tend to be abusive.
A counselor can help your kids develop better ways of expressing their frustration and anger in healthier ways other than abusing their sibling. Understand that punishing kids who cause major harm to their siblings in a humiliating way can be counterproductive. It is advisable to approach the situation calmly and rationally. Unfortunately, victims of sibling abuse hardly heal with time, tend to have low self-esteem, and are overly insecure. In relationships, they play victims and have trouble keeping up with their partners.
Although rivalries among siblings have been noted to promote healthy competition, they can get to an abusive point where the aggression is intended to cause harm. Parents who show favoritism by labeling some kids as smart over others have been reported to sow seeds of conflict and division. Informed counselors can assess the situation to define if it is normal rivalry or abuse, plan, and intervene. Also, the counselor may offer psycho-education to parents about sibling aggression.
Learn more about how to cope and resolve family issues at Isaiah Counseling and Consulting in Charlotte, NC.