. Relationships - Manitoba Parent Zone | Healthy Child Manitoba


Peer relationships are becoming more important to middle years children but they still spend a lot of time with family and this can mean more sibling conflict. As well, peer pressure becomes more present in the middle years.


The middle years can be a challenge because many children are stuck between childhood and adolescence. You might catch your 12-year-old playing with building blocks one afternoon, months after he swears he doesn't play with "kid toys" anymore. This struggle between childhood and adolescence is normal and you should encourage him to enjoy some of those childhood activities more often. Let him know that it doesn't matter how old he is or what other kids say they play with because a lot of them are probably playing with their building blocks when no one else is around, too.

A middle years child spends more time nurturing relationships than he did in his early years because he is developing a better understanding of social rules, including the importance of paying attention to emotions and thinking of others. He is probably spending more time communicating positively, sharing and helping his peers than he did just a few years ago. As your child spends more time interacting with other kids, you'll probably notice changes in how she speaks or dresses or in the activities she pursues. Peer pressure is something she will feel more and more as she ages. Now is a great time to talk about peer pressure and the importance of doing what is right – not what is easiest or most popular.

Play fighting or rough-and-tumble play is a very common activity during the middle years. This type of playing is often linked to father-son interactions but is seen in many cultures and family types around the world. Rough-and-tumble play starts in the preschool years but continues into the middle years. Boys are more likely to engage in physical contact like wrestling while girls are more likely to chase and run with only brief moments of physical contact. Rough-and-tumble play is not aggressive; it is a friendly activity that children want to engage in. You can tell the difference between rough-and-tumble play and aggression because children are usually smiling, laughing and talking during rough-and-tumble play. Also, children engaged in rough-and-tumble play will come together to do other activities, while children who have been fighting will walk away from each other.

Peer pressure may begin to occur more often with your older middle years child as he nears adolescence. While peer pressure is most likely to influence your child's choice of clothing, friendships and music preference, parental influence is stronger in longer-lasting areas such as education and personal values. So try to relax and enjoy the funny clothing he wears, knowing that your child may follow his friend's fads, but is likely going to follow your advice on the important things.

Many children also begin asking to have sleepovers at this age. As a parent, you will have to decide if your child is ready to have a sleepover, if you are ready to host a sleepover, and if you are ready to let your child stay overnight at a friend's house. If you've answered "yes" or "maybe" to these three questions, there are a few things you might want to think about prior to hosting a night of popcorn, giggles and games of truth or dare.

First, if the sleepover is at your house, think about the rules and limits you want to set and speak to your daughter about these before she invites friends over. It's also a good idea to call the other parents and let them know that you will be home to supervise the sleepover, and discuss any medications, allergies or concerns the parents might have about their child. Spend some time with your son planning the night. What kinds of foods would they like? What sort of activities will they want to do?

When the big night arrives, talk to the kids about your rules and expectations for the night. After you've gone over the rules, have fun and maybe they'll even let you giggle with them for a while.

If your child is going to a friend's house overnight, it's a good idea to speak to the other parents to make sure they will be home all evening to supervise, discuss medications, allergies or other concerns, and talk about drop-off and pick-up times. Before you bring your son to his friend's house, make sure you remind him of personal safety issues and that it's always okay to call home if something makes him uncomfortable or unsafe. It may also be a good idea to let him know that the rules he follows at home still apply at his friend's house & that might mean he's not allowed to watch certain movies, play certain video games or go out after 9 pm.


Unfortunately, some children do not have happy, healthy relationships with others. These children are more likely to get involved with gangs as they are looking for friendship and belonging. Other children might join a gang for protection, respect or to thrill seek. Still others feel like they don't have a choice and will be physically hurt or punished if they don't join a gang.

Many parents worry about their children getting involved with the wrong group of friends or gangs. Children will try to find friendships that make them feel good about themselves. If you are concerned about your child's friendships, talk to him. Encourage your child to go to events where he will be able to meet and make friends.

If your child starts to wear different clothing or is always wearing a certain colour or two, this may be a sign that she is involved in a gang. Other signs include having gang symbols on her belongings, hanging out with unfamiliar people, getting involved with the justice system, declining interest in school or other activities and having more money than usual. If you think your child may be involved in gang activity, it's best to address the situation immediately.

Talk to your child about the realities of gangs. It's a good idea to tell your child that she could get hurt, she could hurt her family and friends, and that she could be putting her future in jeopardy by joining a gang. Again, stay calm when you are talking to your child and be honest. Tell her how scared, worried and upset you are. Finally, you might want to find a professional to talk to you and your child about gang involvement. Manitoba has many supports for families or youth involved in gangs. Follow the link for more information.


If you are the proud parent of two or more children, you might have noticed an increase in conflict between your children. During the school years your children are more likely to argue with each other, especially if your children are the same sex and close in age. This increase in sibling rivalry is often partly caused because we, as parents, tend to compare our children's accomplishments in school and other activities. Oops! Even though we try not to, we might be comparing our children's abilities or our children might think that we are comparing them. Remind your children that you love both of them equally; that everyone has something that they are really good at and something they need to work on. These differences are what make us unique and special. The wonderful thing about siblings at this age is that both their negative and positive feelings for one another are very strong.

Your older child probably helps his younger sibling with homework, social issues, and other activities. Your child may have even intervened on behalf of his younger sibling during a difficult situation like being bullied at school or when he was disciplined at home. This thought that "no one is allowed to pick on my brother but me" is very normal during the middle years. As your older child turns into an adolescent, he will spend less time with his siblings and family. At this point, your younger child might be more independent and may be less willing to listen or accept help from his older brother. In turn, these changes will decrease the intensity of emotions your children have for one another and will likely decrease the number of conflicts they have with each other as well.

Remember that physical, emotional, or verbal aggression between siblings is not appropriate. It is not a normal part of childhood or sibling rivalry to intentionally hurt someone. Yes, siblings will argue and fight over whose turn it is to clear the table or pick the movie, but that does not mean they should solve their problems with aggression or violence.

How can you tell when your child is being aggressive or violent? Think about your child's age and the situation. Does your child often tease or make fun of her sibling? Does she hit him or trip him whenever she can? If your child is often hurting her sibling, it is not the same thing as losing her cool and pushing him out of the way while playing soccer. It is very important that you pay attention to your children's interactions. And while it may be easier to notice aggression with boys because they are more likely to be physical, note that aggression can also be verbal or social. Words can be just as hurtful and damaging as a fist, so make sure you also pay attention to the way your children speak to each other.

Some people may believe that siblings (especially boys) have to physically fight out their problems, but encouraging or allowing your children to physically fight teaches them that it is okay to use violence to solve problems. And while many adults have fight stories from our past, as parents we are responsible for keeping our children safe, both while riding a bike and while working out a conflict with a sibling.

If your children are aggressive with one another, it's best to stop their interactions and tell them to use their words to solve the problem. Always reward them for taking the time to solve the issue in a positive way. Sibling relationships should be warm, caring, supportive and helpful.