Sibling relationships
March 12, 2012
by Jenni Sebora

“She did it.”

“He started it.”

These are common statements we hear among children, or we have said, growing up with our own siblings. Growing up with a twin brother, these sentiments were shared between us. Now that I have children of my own, those same words ring in my own household.

Sibling rivalry. It is a part of being a brother or a sister. It is time-tested. Expectations that children will always get along and agree are not realistic. In fact, experts say that learning to deal with sibling conflict can teach life lessons.

Learning how to negotiate, asserting oneself, and testing limits are some of those life skills that dealing with sibling conflict can help teach our children. We may have to help our children set boundaries for these conflicts – help teach them to deal with conflict “fairly.”

We need to allow children to work out their conflicts with their brothers and sisters without always jumping in, unless of course, things turn violent, physical, or the intent of the conflict is to be mean and cruel. Hurtful words and actions should not be tolerated. We should instill and reinforce our values in how we treat each other.

Not only is conflict shared among siblings, but so are love, connection, memories, friendship, and advocacy. My twin and I may have had our disagreements, and we still do at times, but we were, and continue to be, each other’s biggest supporter, defender, and protector.

My husband and I set boundaries for our children’s quarrels and conflicts, as well. We remind them that it is OK to disagree, but to be hurtful is not. We remind them that they have to be there for each other, watch out for each other, and be a supporter of one another.

Clara Ortega said, “To the outside world, we all grow old, but not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s heart. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”

Siblings share a love and a connection like no other. They say that sibling relations are the longest-lasting relationships. Siblings are a child’s first playmates. Younger children will try and emulate what their older siblings do. Older siblings serve as mentors, and as teachers. Siblings know where each other comes from, where their life stories begin and grow. They are part of each other’s stories. That is truly a connection like no other.

Of course, sibling relationships can be influenced by temperament, personality, age spacing, gender, birth order, parenting, family conflict, and among other factors, experts tell us.

We, as parents, can help sibling relationships grow healthy by listening to each child and acknowledging their concerns, as well as encouraging them to listen to each other, spending individual time with each child, and seeing each child as an individual.

A sibling relationship will outlast a parent relationship.

Susan Merrell said, “Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of personal stories to the inevitable dusk.”

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