Let’s be real, school isn’t only a place for children to learn. It’s also an environment that promotes social interaction with friends and somewhere for rambunctious kiddos to blow off steam and energy. With the implementation of social distancing restrictions in hopes to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, schools around the world have moved to home-based online learning systems, suddenly uprooting children from their normal routines.

With new schedules consisting of increased time together, tensions can run high in a home. Sibling rivalry is already an unmatched beast, but with the added high-stress levels of the current state of the world and quarantine measures, these fights can be almost unbearable for parents who can’t escape either.

For peace of mind, here are four different ways that can help you reduce conflict when working with siblings and social distancing.

1.  Create Outlets for Social Distancing

Isolation is hard. As much as you are missing socializing with your friends, your little ones are missing their buddies too. This can create a strain on sibling relationships as children are not used to having their brother or sister as their only friend to play with 24/7.

Thanks to technology, a great way to make up for lost time with friends is to set up online “playdates.” Using one of the many video chat services, you can organize a time when your children can talk and even play with their friends. While video chats can sometimes be awkward at the start, you can help them out by planning ahead and setting up activities such as crafts, toys, or games that they can do together.

2.  Protect Personal Space

Being around the same people all the time can be challenging, even when they are your family. It’s important to acknowledge that your kids may need a little “me” time too. Ensuring that each of your kids has time to withdraw from interaction such as reading quietly or playing on their own, helps prevent your children from getting on each other’s nerves. This is especially relevant if one of your kids is more extraverted than the other(s) and has difficulty accepting that a sibling doesn’t want to play all the time. Help avoid this sibling and social distancing conflict by reminding your kids that everyone needs a little break from time to time, especially during high-stress periods such as these.

3.  Balance Your Time

When emotions are running high, sometimes children can say things like “I’m not the favourite child.” Any parent knows that this is a completely fabricated idea but as much as you try to express that, sometimes kids still don’t get it. A way you can avoid these feelings of envy that could be causing sibling jealousy and arguments is by creating special one-on-one times with each child so they know they are just as loved as the other. This doesn’t have to mean separating them, it can be as simple as playing their favourite game or avoiding unknowingly choosing sides in an argument.

4.   Address the Change

This pandemic can be very stressful for young children, especially ones who don’t quite understand what is happening. All this stress can build up quickly and without being able to leave the home, the easiest person to take those frustrations out on is, you guessed it, a brother or sister. Making sure your child feels safe and protected during this stressful time might require you to explain the situation. Though you may feel like you want to shield your little ones from all the fear in the world, you should be honest and talk to them about their feelings regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Odds are, they probably have more to say than you realise.

For handling tough topics and questions about the coronavirus with your child, check out Talking About COVID-19 With Your Child: 5 Big Questions They May Ask.

Children are naturally intuitive and aware of the world more than we know. While we are in a state of high stress about what’s going on, it’s important to remember that these are big and scary changes for them too. Arguing with their brother or sister may just be your kids’ way of unleashing all this built up fear and frustration. Before you start pulling out your hair from all the fighting, try some of these suggestions to ease the sibling and social distancing strains. With some creative effort, you should be on your way to a quieter and happier household in no time.