This tiny secret to a child's happiness is often overlooked

We know you're tired. We know parenting is hard. But this one small task really cannot be neglected.

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  • Parenting is one of the toughest jobs you'll ever face.

  • You are tasked with making sure your children grow into responsible, reliable, kind, hardworking members of society. You want to set them up for good lives, but it's a heavy load to carry. The pressure is immeasurable — so much to consider, so much to worry about...

  • But there's one important issue parents should be putting at the top of their "to do" lists that is often neglected, and sometimes even forgotten...

  • Fostering a deep-rooted sibling relationship between children

  • Though maintaining a good parent-child relationship is certainly vital, how often do we truly prioritize the relationships our kids have with each other? Children grow up and form family units of their own — apart from their parents. The parent-child dynamic changes. The bonds between siblings, however, can and should stay the same.

  • So, should parents force friendships upon their children? No. But they can help encourage bonds that will carry on for decades. Here are a few ways you can play a role in fostering such a relationship between your own children:

  • 1. Defend individuality

  • Without a strong sense of self, a child cannot fully understand and appreciate differences in others. Allow your children to be different from one another — and different from you. Sure, you may be all about sports, but maybe your son enjoys math and science. Maybe your eldest plays football, but that doesn't mean his younger brother should do the same.

  • Help each child see what he has to offer, and show him the unique things his siblings bring to his life. Children who are constantly comparing themselves to each other cannot build relationships of pure love and trust.

  • 2. Don't play favorites!

  • Eliminate harmful comparisons by finding ways to help each child feel valued and appreciated for her individual talents and character traits. Billy might get better grades than Sally; Sally might be more creative than Billy — both are OK. As a parent, it is your job to help your kids find themselves, not find who they aren't.

  • Comparing and playing favorites causes resentment and hatred among siblings.

  • 3. Demonstrate loyalty

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  • Being loyal doesn't mean going out and robbing a store because your brother wants you to. Loyalty means committing yourself to someone in a shared cause. Among your children, this cause is family.

  • Encourage kind words and thoughts. Do not tolerate unkind or unclean speech, especially when it is directed at family members. Teach your children to share times of joy together and to share times of loss as well. Help them understand the true meaning of family and feel the beauty and power that comes with it.

  • 4. Create new opportunities to strengthen bonds

  • Who doesn't love a great family adventure? A yearly family vacation is great for bonding and discovery; however, bonding happens in small moments as well. Try to eat dinner as a family as often as possible. Take your children to each other's educational and extracurricular activities. Make new traditions as you celebrate holidays.

  • A child can only love and respect a person he knows, so provide your children with ample opportunities to spend time with one another. Remember, it's the little things that carry on...

  • There's a lot that goes into parenting, and though worry and planning play a big part, fun and friendship play an even bigger role. Channel your worry, and focus on helping your kids become lifelong friends. They'll thank you for it one day.

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Cristel Romero is a wife and mother to three sons. She works part-time in marketing at a home health company.

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