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Facts for All Ages
brady bunch

Healthy Adult Sibling Relationships

Recently my four siblings, their spouses, and I got together for our annual sibs weekend. (I'd post a picture of us, but at least one of my sisters would, shall we say, object STRONGLY.)

I can always count on my siblings for a lot of laughter, gentle ribbing, and reminiscing and this led me to wonder about the importance of adult sibling relationships. After all, our siblings are the people with whom we will have the longest lasting relationships of our lives – usually longer than with parents, spouses, friends, children.

There have not been a lot of studies about adult sibling relationships – most focus on children - but the importance of adult sibling relationships does shine through. Most sibling relationships are close – two-thirds of people in one large study said a brother or sister is one of their best friends. In addition, during middle age and old age, indicators of well-being – mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, life satisfaction – are tied to how you feel about your brothers and sisters.

So, if healthy adult sibling relationships are so important to our health, what can we do? First, we need to promote healthy sibling relationships in our children. One of the prime factors in adults having less than warm, fuzzy thoughts about their siblings is if parents played favorites in childhood. Adults who remember favoritism, whether they were the favored OR the unfavored one, report feeling less loved and cared for by their siblings.

Parents also need to encourage siblings to work out their conflicts on their own. Parents set the ground rules for working out problems – mutual respect, no harmful behaviors – and teach how to negotiate and compromise. The children have to take it from there so that they can lay the groundwork for getting along with each other (and others!) in the future.

Once we are adults, we can change our relationships with our siblings:

  • Recognize past issues and recognize what triggers negative feeling
  • Understand that some things may never be resolved and that it might be best, in the interest of a good relationship, to just not discuss or acknowledge some issues
  • Get to know your sibling outside of the sibling role – see who they have become. You may find that you like your sibling!

Remember, the choice of maintaining, or changing, your relationship with your siblings rests with you.

Information for this article was excerpted from:

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