Sibling relationships are often some of our longest relationships, and while they can be complex and at times challenging, they can also be a source of deep connection and happiness. Our first opportunities to practice social skills and learn how to develop healthy relationships are often with our siblings. In healthy sibling relationships, we are able to learn valuable skills like compromise, conflict resolution, listening, communication, and emotion regulation. Our siblings can also be a source of support and encouragement both when we are young and well into later life. Research indicates that people who have strong emotional connections with their sibling(s) have increased life satisfaction and lower rates of depression during early adulthood (Milevsky, 2005). Additionally, a 30-year study by Waldinger, Vaillant, & Orav (2007) suggests that sibling relationships during childhood are a predictor of mental health during later life.
It’s clear that sibling relationships are important for our social, emotional, and psychological development and can lead to many positive outcomes. However, it’s also true that these relationships are tricky and can have a lot of ups and downs. Many of us may be able to think back to our childhood experiences with our siblings and recall disagreements, teasing, or periods where you just didn’t seem to get along. Maybe you had an older sibling who wouldn’t let you hang out with their friends or a younger sibling who didn’t listen when you asked them to stay out of your room. Or, maybe you’re a parent of siblings who can relate to long car rides with endless bickering in the back seat. While these experiences are unpleasant and stressful, sibling conflict and rivalry are quite common and can even create opportunities to learn important relationship building skills, such as compromise and conflict resolution.
How can you promote healthy sibling relationships and help your kids develop important relationship building skills? As a parent, there are many things you can do to help your kids build a healthy relationship with one another. Though this doesn’t mean there won’t be arguments or conflict, you will be able to use these moments to help guide your children through positive ways to work through differences or difficult feelings. Throughout the rest of this week, HRI will be sharing tips to help you foster healthy sibling relationships in your family. We will also be sharing information about the impact of parentification, or when one sibling takes on a parenting role, on sibling relationships. Stay tuned for more information!
Milevsky, A. (2005). Compensatory patterns of sibling support in emerging adulthood: Variations in lonliness, self-esteem, depression, and life satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22(6), 743-755. doi: 10.1177/0265407505056447
Waldinger, R. J., Vaillant, G. E., & Orav, E.J. (2007). Childhood sibling relationships as a predictor of major depression in adulthood: a 30-year prospective study. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 164(6), 949-954.