Siblings at odds with each other

2009-05-22 00:00

DO early relationships with siblings repeat their patterns when we’re adults?

Do parenting skills determine how sibling children later relate to each other in adulthood?

Do adult siblings have an implied duty to bail out each other in times of financial doldrums, to keep in touch and uplift each other in times of trouble?

Some parents choose to have more than one child because they reason that an only child would feel lonely. Ironically, if sibling relationships are not managed well, a child might feel that she’d have been happier as an only child, because of the stress of intense sibling rivalry. Raising children under the same roof will not automatically result in a close bond forming between the children.

As a member of a large extended family, I’ve observed how differently siblings from diverse families relate to each other. Siblings from one family support each other in times of need. In other families, siblings adopt an “each one for himself” mentality.

When asked to help her brother, a friend commented: “Why should I help him out? As children we were all given equal chances yet he squandered his.”

A young adult explained why he’d sacrificed time and money to help a sibling whom he didn’t particularly get along with. “When we were young, Mum instilled in us the principle that we should be there for each other no matter what.”

From a young age children can be taught to show loyalty towards each other and to value each other. Such principles will last a lifetime.

What causes sibling strain?

Several factors can contribute towards strained sibling relationships. These include feelings of jealousy, lack of privacy, step-family tensions and an unwillingness to share. Parents have an opportunity to help their children learn vital human-relations skills by teaching them how to solve sibling personality clashes. For example, when children fight over lack of privacy, parents can help the fighting parties to negotiate and come up with a schedule to use a room on certain days or times. To discourage selfishness, parents can encourage children to share “property” rights and to respect each other’s private property.

Whenever possible, children should be allowed to solve their own problems and hone their negotiating skills.

By avoiding special treatment of one child over the other and encouraging open communication where a child feels unfairly treated, parents can help reduce sibling rivalry emanating from step-family tensions and jealousies.

A child can be helped to appreciate his or her siblings by reminding him or her that siblings, unlike friends, will always be there to talk to and to share chores, even up to adulthood.

Admittedly, the siblings I struggled to get along with at the age of six are the same family members I struggled to get along with in my young adulthood. To make the relationships work, with the help of my parents, I had to go out of my way.

The siblings I got along with at a young age became my best friends later in life.

 — 24.comParent

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