Disclaimer: both children have read this post and they are happy for me to make it public. They reviewed the information and my youngest asked me to make one change, which I did.

This post focuses on our children and how they have experienced this trip and how they have changed.

How do we manage with our relationships whilst in close proximity? Or, more specifically, how do the children manage when they don’t have any other children to play with and have to play all the time with their sibling?

I always say how lucky we are that the children play well together, but are we? Is it just luck or are their particular attitudes we have instilled?

We have two children, both girls. When I had my second girl I figured she’d be similar to the first. Same genes, same sex, similar parenting experience. Hah! How wrong and naive I was!

My eldest child has the most amazing imagination. Even as a small toddler she would wake from a nap and play in her cots for hours (if I let her!), singing to her toys and generally being happy. She is a chatterbox full of ideas but suffers with anxiety in social situations – it breaks my heart sometimes to see how much of a challenge she finds it. She’s ten but seems so naive compared to some of her friends. She’s got no interest in boys or growing up. She thinks it’s hilarious when people do something ‘wrong’ like men dressing as women or adults acting as children. She’s gentle and calm and quiet. She doesn’t take criticism well – even a tiny remark that she forgot a full stop can send her in a spiral of unwillingness to continue with a particular task.

My youngest is chatty and gregarious. People love her easily – she’s very personable. She’s seven but is super image conscious and clear about how she wants to look. She so wants to be grown up, it worries me that she’s growing up too fast. She’s so keen to be liked that she’s willing to go along with peer pressure to ensure her popularity…I’m dreading the teenage years. She is full of life and opinion. She doesn’t like anything that is too hard – if it doesn’t come easily then she would rather not put the effort in. She plays on being the baby of the family and, I must admit, she’s so damn cute that I sometimes let her get away with it!

They are so different from each but they get on so well. Without the eldest providing ideas, the youngest will struggle to play independently or for any length of time. So why do they play so well together?

I’ve always talked to the children about the fact that they will always be sisters. That, as adults, they will still be sisters and actions undertaken now may affect that relationship. We discuss relationships that my husband and I have had since childhood – they understand the longevity of relationships. We talk often of the support that they can offer each other now, and in the future. I encourage them to be independent from us, this means that they sometimes have to work together to compete a task or achieve a goal.

It helps that the eldest is willing to compromise and that the youngest is happy to be led in a particular direction. We have days when they bicker often (and relentlessly) but these are in the minority.

They miss their friends. Our eldest has some developed friendships and her friends have a maturing relationship. They are naturally more independent and this has meant skype conversations (when we’ve had WiFi) and email exchanges. There are times when I have felt excluded from her world of friends – her centre has shifted from me and she wants to have private discussions. (Sob).

I feel that our youngest has found it harder to maintain her relationships from home. There have been some email exchanges but most seven year olds do not have free access to devices to maintain these interactions. Writing is also more challenging for this age group. She sometimes feels left out (by her friends at home) but she is not one to dwell on this and is excited to pick up friendships when she returns assuming they will be as she left.

I’m not sure I’ve noticed the girls getting closer in particular but I have noticed, particularly with our ten year old, a confidence and a keenness to engage with other children more readily. At the start of our trip both children were loathe to approach other children at a park – voicing fears of different language and lack of understanding. Now they come to me to ask basic phrases (my name is, hello) to initiate a play opportunity. They understand that communication is more than a shared language.

I think we are incredibly lucky that the girls get in so well. I think helping them to understand the give and take in a relationship and an awareness that people make mistakes and are sometimes thoughtless has helped them to be more accepting of each other. I feel honoured that I’ve been able to spend such an intensive period of time with them and observed their growing confidence and their developing skills.