How to end sibling rivalry

Two sisters
Two sisters

According to Psychology Today, the most effective way to break the cycle of sibling rivalry is to reset the system. “When the old pattern is interrupted by a change in the familiar functioning, the entire system will shift in response,” the site reads.

Psychologist Lindi Maseko gives us steps you can make take to help ease and manage sibling tension between you and your sibling. 

Take the first step: Don’t let pride or stubbornness hold you back. “Because your sibling, whom you didn’t choose, is a God-given relationship, one way or another there’ll be something that’ll make your paths cross,” says Maseko.

Communicate clearly: You can’t change the past, but you can alter your viewpoint and attitude through better understanding. This comes as a result of clear and open communication. Avoid using sarcasm, accusatory or hurtful language, and speak calmly. “Stick to the facts,” says Maseko. Explain to your sibling that you’re feeling resentment or pain.

Recognise jealousy: Envy means you want something that the other person has; jealousy is fearing losing something you have. Both are rooted in insecurity, low self-esteem and self-confidence, and anger, explains Maseko.

Don’t make comparisons: Whether of qualifications, careers, husbands, or families; don’t dwell on what others have. Focus on yourself and develop your own standard of success. You can never truly know what the other person is thinking and feeling. Beneath the surface and carefully crafted social media postings, their lives may be far from rosy.

Take responsibility: Remind yourself that it’s likely that neither of you is to blame. But you’re adults now, so aim to treat each other accordingly. “You should be able to say no without fear of losing any love from your parent or sibling,” advises Maseko.

Let go: Forgive yourself for assuming roles you disliked, she says. Stop trying to change your sibling, accept them for who they are. “If you’ve been in a pattern of rescuing or directing them, stop: it’s their life. Make a conscious effort to break away from old roles. Be prepared to say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I forgive you’.”

Set boundaries: Feel okay about setting and sticking to boundaries, says Maseko. Life will have treated adult siblings differently, you can’t expect them to be like you or who you’d like them to be. But you can set limits on your relationship and see these are respected. They may include showing up at family functions and being civil, no matter what.

Make time: Make an effort to be there for your siblings especially in hard times, which can draw you together.

Stay close: With today’s busy lifestyle, it can be easy to drift apart but you need to find each other. Perhaps start a family website, Facebook page or WhatsApp group to share news and any family updates, but beware of bragging, and be sure to give praise where due.


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