The relationship you have with your siblings is probably one of the most influential relationships you’ll ever have. Most people focus on improving their relationship with their parents, which, although important, is only one part of the family system. But since you’re likely to have the longest relationship with your siblings, having a solid bond with them and understanding each other is incredibly important.
Building a close connection with your sibling becomes even more vital as adults. You’re more likely to be each other’s confidant through challenging times and be a constant source of support. Despite this, there’ll often be times when it feels like you’re living with an arch-enemy. But sibling rivalry is common. So even though you have arguments now and again, you can still be close.
Plenty of research suggests that healthy sibling relationships promote empathy, prosocial behavior, and stronger adult connections. To nurture a stronger bond with your siblings as grownups, whether they’re biological, step-siblings, or adopted, try these seven ways.
1. Cultivate your friendship
The foundation of every successful relationship is friendship and mutual respect. While being friends with your sibling can be tricky at times, it can give you a lifelong best friend you can cherish way into adulthood. Still, it doesn’t necessarily come easily and requires constant care and maintenance. But like most friendships, it all begins with letting your sibling know how much you care. Small trinkets and tokens of appreciation go a long way in fostering relationships. For instance, consider getting matching sister bracelets that each of you wears to showcase your bond. Gifts like these symbolize your bond and are a constant reminder of each other’s love and support, no matter how far apart you live.
2. Broaden your relationship
It’s very common for siblings to move away and live far from each other as they grow older. Whether for college, jobs, or family, several factors can put miles of distance between siblings. Unfortunately, it’s not until holidays or family get-togethers that they meet and reunite after several months (or years) apart. Since parents or other family members often plan these get-togethers, it seems easy and natural to gravitate to old roles and positions. Sometimes old rivalries and painful memories are brought into conversations, making it challenging to build a relationship with your sibling. Therefore, hanging out with your siblings beyond the family home is essential. Engage in fun activities and plan regular meetups to catch up on each other’s lives without tangling in with the family drama.
3. Let go of old resentments
The experiences of adulthood and time away from one another can provide a different perspective of sibling relationships. Although you come from the same upbringing, don’t assume you know your sibling by basing your opinion on how you viewed them as a child. Take the time to understand them once more. Identify how you are different or similar, and look for common ground among your shared experiences. A barrier in most sibling relationships is parents who play favorites. This favoritism can manifest into adolescence and fester insecurity between siblings. But fortunately, as adults, you have the opportunity to discuss your childhood with each other bluntly. Hash out long-lasting rivalries, let go of old resentments and move on to build a deeper and healthier relationship.
4. Don’t compare yourself to your sibling
Your younger brother might end up with a better job, a bigger house, or a bigger bank account. Alternatively, your dream of attending the same school as your sister may not come true. Although these feelings might not seem fair, it’s essential to understand they don’t stand up to honest scrutiny. You and your sibling are not the same people. You, too, have your own sets of strengths, and your siblings don’t come without any limitations either. Feeling like your accomplishments are not good enough will affect your mental health and deteriorate your relationship with your sibling. Growing up, we all make different choices, and there’s no reason why your path should be similar to your sibling’s.
5. Be supportive
Being there for someone in their time of need is one of friendship’s greatest gifts. And there’s nothing better than being that pillar of support for your sibling. Be supportive of your brothers and sisters as much as you can. Offering your support is exceptionally important when they’re going through a difficult period in their lives. Life can throw unexpected curve balls in the form of divorce, job loss, or severe illnesses. But having someone to lean on during these challenging times can make all the difference in the world. You don’t necessarily have to do anything. Most times, just being there when your sibling needs you is enough.
6. Stay in touch
The advent of social media and technology at our fingertips leaves us no excuse to stay out of touch with one another. Unfortunately, we get so busy with our daily schedules and work lives that we spare little time to talk to those who matter the most. Many of us prioritize relationships with our peers, parents, friends, and significant others over siblings. But for many of us, sibling relationships are the longest-lasting ties we’ll have, and hence it’s imperative to make them work. Set aside a specific time from your day or week to regularly check in with your brother or sister. At times, your conversations may even seem inconsequential, but they play a huge role in strengthening your bond over the years.
7. Plan a vacation
There’s nothing quite like traveling that can bring people together. Often our lives become so redundant and monotonous we don’t get time to experience new things. Planning a getaway with your sibling provides you the perfect opportunity to explore different adventures, along with enjoying each other’s company. Choose a destination you both want to visit and enjoy the time you have together. When planning an itinerary, increased interaction and consultation can promote better communication and strengthen ties with your siblings. If you have kids, bring them along to bond with their cousins and forge a stronger connection as a family.
When it comes to working on our closest adult relationships, the ones we have with our siblings often take a backseat. It’s common for siblings to drift apart as they get older, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. Little effort in nurturing the relationship from both sides can strengthen bonds for many years and make our lives happier and healthier.