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Five Ways to Improve Your Sibling Relationships

By Jane Isay

Editor's Note: We choose our friends but we can't choose our siblings. Often our adult relationships with our brothers and sisters gets stuck on old scripts, and how we interacted as children and teens. Sometimes that works, for families that had close relationships among the children, but aloof relationships in youth can continue into adulthood. This is a nice article for adults who would like to improve their sibling relationships.

Many people wish they were closer with their brothers and sisters, especially as their own children grow up and leave home, or as they find themselves responsible for the care of their parents. The reasons for distance between siblings often go back to childhood, when a series of fights, or unresolved unfairness, came between kids. Those old stories do not have to be re-enacted for life. Here are five things you can do to make your sibling relationships easier. You may never be best friends, but very little in this life is perfect.

Tear up the old family script.

In most families, each of the brothers and sisters takes on a role, and that becomes habitual. Some of these roles depend on genetics (talent, looks), others on family dynamics (the good one, the rebel), and some depend on personality (the grind, Miss Popularity). As adults, these roles are irrelevant to our lives and we shed them-except with our siblings. So get out of the rut: if you were the bossy one, ask your sib for advice and listen to it. If the "angel" in the family gets into trouble, don't gloat--offer to help. Cutting the labels from your sibling suits is surprisingly effective in bringing you closer.

Make a deal with your brothers and sisters that what happened in the nursery stays in the nursery.

Many people focus on the things that occurred between them when they were all children. Hitting, biting, stealing from each other, tattling-these unfortunately are hallmarks of childish behavior. They happen in every family, but sometimes the hurt from these experiences lasts a lifetime. If you can retell yourself these stories from the point of view of the adult you are, two things may happen: you will forgive your older brother for pushing you around, and maybe you'll forgive yourself for being so mean to your sister. Anger and guilt are emotions that keep up apart. Reframe them, and you'll breathe more easily.

When your brother or sister really annoys you, put the shoe on the other foot.

How many times have you thought, "I can't believe we come from the same family"? There are good reasons why you're different, but that doesn't matter when you see things so differently and it bothers you. If you're a working mom with kids in day care, and you think your stay-at-home sister is wasting her talents and education, remember that she may be wondering how on earth you could turn your kids over to strangers. If you think your brother throws his money around, while you are conscientious about finances, imagine that he might find you cheap. Coming from the same family doesn't require sharing values or life styles as adults. So it helps to accept their quirks, and hope (without insisting) that they will accept yours.

No behind-the-back conversations.

You can duck a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings if you avoid talking about your brothers and sisters behind their backs. Don't let your parents vent to you about any of them and stay away from gossip about them. It might feel good in the short run to be the confidante but it will eventually complicate your relationships. If something happens to one sibling that another needs to know about, it's best to put them in touch with each other, instead of being the messenger and getting between them. It's just smart behavior to stop playing "telephone" with, and about, our siblings.

Remember sibling relationships come in every shape and size, from very close to occasional communications.

Every relationship takes work, we know, from friendship to marriage, to parenting. Just because you're born into the same family doesn't mean you have to be perfect brothers and sisters. Of course there are siblings who are one another's best friends, but most people go back and forth between loving their siblings and being hurt or annoyed by them. Just like the real world. Don't worry if your relationship doesn't appear to be as good as your friend's does. Sometimes we idealize or envy people because we don't know what is really going on behind closed doors. The funny thing about feeling better about a relationship is that, when you do, it becomes less tense and tends to improve.

As we get older, there are fewer people to talk to about the past, and fewer people to remember our childhood pets and the songs we sang on the endless car rides, so it's worth a little effort to improve our sibling relationships. Besides, we need others more than we did when we were younger, and we're wise enough to understand the value of relationships we once took so lightly. It's worth a try, and the results may be surprisingly good.

Jane Isay is the author of "Mom Still Likes You Best: The Unfinished Business Between Siblings" (Doubleday). Visit her online at

Sibling Rivalry By n a - Find out why your children are fighting and how you can help when they disagree. Some good tips for helping your kids to get along are also included. (Added: 11-Dec-2008 Hits: 1958 )

Common Reactions to Becoming a Big Brother or Sister By Amanda Kowal - By the time you have a second child you already see yourself as a parent. For your firstborn child, however, it is a big change because all of the sudden he or she becomes a big brother or sister! This change can be very difficult for children and many become angry and upset. However, most children also have very positive, warm, and loving feelings about their new brothers and sisters. (Added: 19-Jun-2007 Hits: 1760 )

Common Reactions to Becoming a Big Brother or Sister By Amanda Kowal - By the time you have a second child you already see yourself as a parent. For your firstborn child, however, it is a big change because all of the sudden he or she becomes a big brother or sister! This change can be very difficult for children and many become angry and upset. However, most children also have very positive, warm, and loving feelings about their new brothers and sisters. (Added: 19-Jun-2007 Hits: 2566 )

How Can I Treat My Kids The Same When They Are So Different? By Amanda Kowal - Do you ever find it hard to treat your children exactly the same? You’re not alone. “It’s not fair!” is a phrase many parents hear when they treat their children differently. (Added: 19-Jun-2007 Hits: 2048 )

Raising Siblings: How to Avoid Giving Your Children Labels By Amanda Kowal - Your children are so different – they each have very different talents, skills, and personalities so it can seem natural to give them labels. For example, one child may be the “smart one” or the “artist” or the “troublemaker”. Although it is easy to give your kids labels, they can be hard for children. (Added: 19-Jun-2007 Hits: 1740 )

How to Help Your Child Become a Big Brother or Sister By Amanda Kowal - Imagine if your husband or wife brought another spouse home and said “Honey, I love you so much, you are so wonderful, that I want to have another spouse just like you to come live with us!” and then was surprised that you were upset. This is sort of how your firstborn child feels when you have a new child. (Added: 19-Jun-2007 Hits: 1448 )

How to Avoid Comparing your Children By Amanda Kowal - Do you worry about your kids fighting? One way parents can work to lessen sibling rivalry and jealousy is to focus on each child’s behavior without comparing him or her to a brother or sister. It can be difficult to avoid comparing children, but it’s worth the effort and is an important step to successfully parenting siblings. (Added: 19-Jun-2007 Hits: 1839 )

Strengthening Sibling Ties By Mimi Doe - Great tips for parents to help ensure that sibling rivalry is reduced within the family. And encouraging your kids to work as a team is just one of the ways. Read this article for more information. (Added: 16-Aug-2004 Hits: 2288 )

SIBLING RIVALRY By William Antonio Boyle, Ph.D. - This is a discussion of the rivalry that exists between brothers and sisters. Sibling rivalry exists in nature as well. One example cited is how some animals compete for food that is in short supply. A parallel is drawn with siblings competing for parental time and affection which can be perceived as being in short supply. You'll want to read more of this interesting discussion. (Added: 16-Aug-2004 Hits: 1900 )

Family Birth Order By Dr. Kevin Leman - The author of "The New Birth Order" books presents a discussion of the various characteristics and traits that influence family dynamics and sibling relationships due to birth order. This article is written for kids. I think it would be great to read with your children to facilitate a family discussion between Mum, Dad and brothers and sisters. (Added: 16-Aug-2004 Hits: 2528 )

Twin Myth Mysteries Solved By Annmarie Killam (Added: 8-Nov-2002 Hits: 1658 )

The How and Why of Twins By Kristine Bruner - Have you ever wondered why some twins look exactly alike and other don't? Ever wonder why twins run in some families and not in others? The twin phenomenon is not as rare or different as you might think. (Added: 8-Nov-2002 Hits: 1090 )

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Birth Order (6)
There's tons of research and discussion on the effects of birth order on personality and siblings. Read about it here.

Pages Updated On: 29-Sep-2021 - 16:45:45

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