In the last of four interviews Isabelle Filliozat, French parenting expert, talks about her book, My Sibling. My Sibling is part of The Find Out Files, a series of activity books that explores feelings and relationships.
Here’s what Ms. Filliozat has to say about creating My Siblings:
Magination Press: Why did you decide to include a book about siblings in The Find Out Files?
Isabelle Filliozat: Do you really have to ask the question? Isn’t it the most difficult topic the parents face? It was the most complicated issue for me with my children. So hard! We hate to see our children fight, but behind those fights are emotions. If we parents learn to hear these emotions, fights lessen. Small fights are natural between siblings, but children need tools to help them deal with conflict so that they don’t harm themselves physically or emotionally.
MP: Why did you choose a cat as the animal guide for My Sibling?
IF: Cats are very cute and friendly. They come to be petted, but they have their independence. And as with your siblings, you never know if he wants to cuddle or fight. While kittens fight a lot with each other, they never harm themselves, but they practice fighting with one another so that they will be strong with strangers. Kittens cuddle a lot. They go underneath one another, on top, any position…I love the game “kitten basket” where all the family piles on each other, pretending to be kittens in a basket. There’s so much contact. You end up laughing and charged with oxytocin!
MP: In My Sibling, you explain how birth order affects how families interact. You explore what it feels like to be a first child or a younger child. What kinds of unique experiences do middle and youngest children have?
IF: I didn’t have room to explore all positions in detail, but the idea is to think about the impact of the environment on development of temperament. When you are in the middle…well, you are in the middle…so you neither get the advantages of the eldest, nor of the youngest. And also you are older than one, and younger than another. So it’s a mix of the positions. It’s of course different when you are in the middle of three kids or in the middle of five, and when the gap between each is one or six years. So many situations and recompositions nowadays add complexity. The idea of the book is not to trap a child in a definition, but to help him think about the experience one is living.
MP: What about twins or multiples? They have to share their parents from the beginning, and people frequently compare them. What kind of experiences do they have as siblings?
IF: Yes, every situation is particular. That is what we have to realize. A baby doesn’t grow alone in a desert, he builds himself through his experiences with others around him. I am not dictating an experience in the book. Just imagine you are twins, imagine the way the parents interact with you, and feel what you feel.
MP: Does being adopted impact sibling relationships? How?
IF: Anything may impact relationships. It may seem to the adult that the adopted child could feel he is not as loved as the biological child, but in fact, every child has a tendency to imagine the other is loved more. Adopted or not. That is why we need to talk about differences, emotions, feelings. The more families open the dialogue, the more feelings are welcome, the better the siblings will get together.
MP: You explore jealousy and envy as two feelings that siblings may have. Why is it important for kids to understand these two specific emotions and how they are different?
IF: Jealousy and envy are often confused, but they are not the same. Jealousy is not an emotion but a sentiment, made of different emotions. An emotion is a natural reaction. A sentiment is made of thought added to feelings. In jealousy, you happen to believe the other gets more than you do. To free oneself from jealousy, you need your underlying fears, disgust, anger, sadness to be heard and understood. Jealousy is destructive. Envy is a powerful motivation, it helps you grow. You want to get what the other has, but you are not blocked by underlying fears of being abandoned.
MP: What is your favorite activity in My Sibling?
IF: I love them all! But I would say the hidden word page, because the child can realize that being jealous doesn’t mean he is a bad person, just that nobody heard his emotions! I also like the wheel that helps kids to talk with parents. Difficult feelings are so hard to talk about when you don’t have a tool to mediate.
MP: Do you have siblings? If you do, how did you get along when you were kids?
IF: Yes, we are four. I am the eldest, that’s why I know very well the feelings of that position. We fought a lot with my brothers. My sister came later, I was already six, so I was protecting her. The relationship with them made me think I was not interesting, not lovable. This belief made my social life difficult. The brother following me especially hated me, or I now should say “showed hatred,” because he couldn’t be heard in his fears and distress. I wish I had a Find Out File at that time to help me understand what was going on inside me and in the dynamic of my family. It would have saved me lots of suffering. We talk a lot as adults, so that helped me understand the other’s perspectives. Now, we have a wonderful relationship.
MP: Do you have other books planned or in progress for The Find Out Files? If you do, what do they explore?
IF: Of course, I have so many ideas! I want to address as many useful topics as I can. Friendship, confidence, children rights, recompositions and adoption in a family, conflict resolution. We are also starting a new series for older children, talking about the importance of sleep, how to concentrate at school, and so on.
Watch Isabelle Filliozat describe all the books in the Find Out Files in this video.
Related Books from Magination Press
The Find Out Files: My Sibling
This helpful activity book offers activities to help kids get along with their brothers and sisters. Kids think that they are expected to love their brothers and sisters unconditionally, but sibling relationships can be really complicated.
This book covers jealousy, fairness, sharing, parent-relationship, and tons more and helps kids find a common ground with their siblings if things get too fraught or upsetting.
Includes an extensive section for parents and caregivers with tools and tips for exploring the topic.