We’re all familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel, a story about two siblings left in the forest who survived and outsmarted a wicked witch. For parents whose kids struggle with sibling rivalry, their unshakeable bond may truly seem like a fairytale – overcoming adversity together without any squabbles? Is it really possible?
Enter Gretel and Hansel by SRT’s The Little Company. Taking on themes of courage, identity and sibling rivalry, the play brings a fresh spin on the Brothers Grimm fairytale classic. The siblings are retold as big sister Gretel and little brother Hansel. Like many other older siblings, Gretel’s life is turned upside down when baby Hansel arrives. He gets all the attention and cuddles while Gretel is told to “grow up” and remember that she is “a big girl now”. As the story unfolds, the young audience is offered a reflection on sibling relationships and are encouraged to appreciate each other. Parents take away valuable tips on fostering good sibling relations. Here are six key lessons for them:
Prepare your child for the new sibling
Preparing older siblings for the birth of a new baby will help to establish a positive relationship. Depending on how old the elder child is, parents will have to adopt age-appropriate ways to prepare their child.
Gretel was only 13 months older than Hansel in the play, and she was unprepared for the huge changes that come with a new baby. The shock, jealousy and insecurity she felt are natural emotions that came as a result of not being ready for the transition. In contrast, Gretel could have adapted better if she were helped to understand that baby Hansel would need more care and attention from her parents.
Have daily one-on-one time with your older child
To Gretel, it seemed like her little brother stole everything; Mother spent all of her time looking after Hansel while telling her things like, “You’re old enough now”, “Be a big girl, Gretel”.
Juggling the many needs of a toddler and a newborn isn’t easy, but parents have to make sure they do not neglect the older child. They need to be proactive in giving their children special one-on-one attention, especially for kids who are displaying signs of insecurity. These special interactions will remind your older child that he or she is still as loved as ever.
Make sure your children have their own space and personal time
Siblings are our first playmates. Almost everything is shared; parents’ attention, toys, bedrooms… Hansel constantly followed Gretel around, wanting whatever she wanted. This caused friction amongst the siblings – Gretel found Hansel irritating, while he couldn’t understand why she was always upset.
Part of building better sibling relationships includes teaching children to respect each other’s personal space, privacy and property. Parents can help to ease sibling conflict by establishing boundaries and making sure that each child has their own time and space to enjoy activities as an individual.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings
In the play, Gretel did not have a healthy outlet for her unhappiness. Whenever she acted out, her parents would put her in the naughty corner “to think about things”. It may seem easier to say things like “you don’t really mean that”, “don’t be silly”, or “your little brother needs me more” when your child voices anger towards younger siblings. Giving your child the opportunity to vent their negative feelings (and addressing each one) allows them not just to feel understood, but also teaches them how to manage and let go of negative emotions.
Emphasise the importance of teamwork
Although Gretel was unhappy with Hansel, she bravely stepped up to find safety while offering him words of encouragement and comfort along the way. Likewise, even though Hansel seemed like the vulnerable one, Gretel too relied on her younger brother, whose presence gave her the courage she needed to lead them out of danger. This shows children that despite their differences, they can be teammates. And it shows siblings what they can achieve by cooperating with each other instead of competing.
Encourage empathy between siblings
Teaching young children about the concept of empathy and tolerance can be tricky, but the play offers a platform for children to gain insight into what it means to be a sibling. Parents can also apply relevant scenarios from the play to address real-life situations – “Gretel felt neglected, but her parents still love her very, very much”, or “Even though Gretel and Hansel didn’t always get along, they still made a good team!”
Packed with valuable lessons on sibling relationships and family dynamics, Gretel and Hansel will keep the family entertained from start to finish. Grab your tickets before they are sold out! Don’t forget to enjoy 15% savings when you buy a Family Package of 4!
This article was written by Singapore's Child and re-published from singaporeschild.com.sg with permission.