It’s summer here in the US and we’ve had lots of chill and play time. My kids have spent a lot of time together, some of that time they’ve gotten along ok.
Sibling conflict is a normal part of growing up. Family dynamics play a part in the relationship: oldest, somewhere in the middle, youngest (like me), twin, blended family with step-siblings or half-siblings, genders, age difference (big gap or super close).
Families have different sibling makeups, and that’s wonderful! I want to share some tools that can help you get along with siblings whatever the dynamic is. Shout out to Lyla and Holly who emailed me with this topic idea!
Your sibling isn’t your competition
First, let’s look at siblings in Encanto – Luisa, Isabella, and Mirabel. (if you haven’t seen it, bear with me) I didn’t get the vibe that Mirabel felt jealous of Luisa’s incredible strength, but it was very clear that she felt bitterness toward Isabella and her “perfect” life. Why do you think that is? Perhaps Mirabel was fine with the fact she wasn’t “as tough as the crust of the earth is,” like Luisa, but she felt self-conscious next to “golden child” sister Isabella who did everything “right” as her family expected (that’ll be another episode). I think it boils down to comparison (which if you’ve hung out here before, you know that’s never productive).
Your sibling isn’t your competition (neither is anyone else, again that’s a different episode). You don’t need to prove you’re more anything than your sibling – not with test scores or grades, not with talents or skills, not with awards of achievements, and especially not with looks. You are the only you and you can’t be anyone else – and that’s wonderful! Even if you are identical twins, you are each unique and have your personal life path. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” right Teddy Roosevelt? So comparing yourself to your sibling will only drive a wedge further between you and break down your connection to each other. I know it’s hard to see a sibling, older or younger, achieve something you wanted, too. Try to celebrate each other’s successes AND stay focused on your own growth and progress. If anyone compares you to them, a teacher or even a family member, you could gently remind them that you are uniquely YOU, and that’s all you need to be.
Spend time with your sibling
Friendships are a wonderful element of life and are important to grow. One of the longest friendships you’ll ever have is a sibling relationship. So along with hanging out with friends, spend time with your sibling, too. It can be as casual as taking a break from homework to catch up each other’s day, or planned out like a weekend marathon watching back to back episodes of your favorite show. Quality time together reinforces your relationship. But what if you think you and your sibling have nothing in common, you’re polar opposites, whether by age, interests, or abilities? I’d encourage you to find your similarities and value each other’s individuality. Like a book genre you can swap recommendations, a new or old movie you can watch, an activity you can play together, a podcast you can listen to and discuss (like this one!). Identify where you can connect and nurture your connection. AND, if you can’t find common ground right now, you can still show support by asking about their interests, letting them show you what they’ve been working on, or attending their performances or competitions.
Treat your siblings with respect
Question: if you treated your closest friend like you treat your sibling, would they still be your friend? I recognize those are different relationships, however, you should treat your siblings with respect, too. If a friend kept tattling on you, nitpicking your behavior, correcting things you said, or pushing your buttons, how would that make you feel? Acting like a bully to your sibling and bringing them down doesn’t put you above them. There’s always a more constructive behavior or response that will convey respect and strengthen your relationship.
Give each other space
I have a shirt that I got from the Kennedy Space Center that reads, “I need my space.” (see what they did there?) But in truth, everyone does periodically. It sounds backwards, but giving each other space can help bring you closer. I know when I was around my siblings too much, like on a long road trip, we’d get on each other’s nerves. Having some YOU time gives you an opportunity to focus on personal stuff, and it’ll make time together with others more meaningful.
Try to work things out together
When you do butt heads with your sibling, try to work things out together before it turns into a fight, someone gets hurt, or you need an adult to referee. You can use some of the same tools from episode 12, Friendship Fires:
- Express your feelings about what happened using I-messages that don’t place blame or say YOU, such as, “I feel sad when I’m left out.”
- Practice empathy to consider their perspective and, as Sharon McMahon said in the previous episode, listen to understand each other.
- Do something nice for them. Showing kindness even when you’re in conflict is one of the best ways to start working toward a resolution.
Take a time out. Physical distance, time, and emotional space helps calm things down, clear your heads, and get you in a better place to work through things when you circle back together again
When you do regroup, say sorry. Even if you’re only partly responsible for the conflict or whatever happened, be humble enough to apologize and take responsibility for your actions. Your apology is about your behavior, not a way to point blame at them. You can’t make them apologize, too, but you can take the first step to repairing your relationship. Listen to episode 14 for more about this.
To help you remember all of this, I created a “Sibling Frame” poster for you to print out, add a picture of you and your sibling, and post on your wall where you’ll see it, remember it, practice it, and believe it — that’s the important part.
Additional resources about sibling relationships:
Beezus and Ramona, by Judy Blume
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
Siblings: You’re Stuck with Each Other, So Stick Together, by John Crist and Elizabeth Verdick
Pride and Predjudice
Ramona and Beezus
If you have favorites to add to this list, or have a topic suggestion, I’d love to hear from you! Send an email (tweens get the OK from your parents) to [email protected] .
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