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How to Deal With Siblings and Co-Dependent Behavior

by Nadia Haris

The bond between siblings is one of the longest lasting for most people. However, this relationship can become harmful if there is codependency. This unbalanced relationship can begin in childhood and is a pattern in which one sibling feels the need to give more to help the other, and essentially lives through or for them. Learn to spot the signs of codependency in your own children and how you can encourage them to have a healthier sibling relationship.

Build your child's self-esteem by making him feel important for who he is, rather than what he does for others. This will help your child find self-worth in his own accomplishments, rather than what he does for his sibling or others.

Ask your child to speak up and voice his opinions. Some codependent children may feel that they need to stay quiet to avoid upsetting a sibling. Allow each child to express his true feelings, without fear or guilt, by stressing that everyone's input is important.

Encourage your child to take care of himself first. Your child may feel that he needs to protect and take care of a younger or weaker sibling. Advise him that being selfless is a good trait in moderation, but he also needs to help his sibling learn how to take care of himself, by letting him solve his own problems.

Teach your child that knowing when to ask for help or accepting a helping hand is a sign of maturity and intelligence. A codependent child may feel that this is a sign of weakness or failure. He believes that he must be the one to step up to help a sibling or family member.

Avoid making your child responsible for the actions of his sibling. An older child may help a younger sibling with his homework, but emphasize that each child is responsible for how much he studies and how well he does on a test. Do not blame a child for the failures of a sibling. Similarly, do not praise him for the successes of a sibling. Instead, thank him for his help and praise personal achievement.


  • Set a good example for your children to help them avoid codependency behavior. If your child talks to you about a problem at school or a mean classmate, avoid trying to rescue him or trying to solve the problem, if it is not physically or psychologically harmful to him. Allow your child to solve his problem so that he will learn that he is competent and responsible for himself.


  • Families that are dysfunctional due to problems with mental health, alcohol, drugs, neglect, gambling and other reasons may foster an environment that makes a child codependent. Physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse may also lead to a child trying to protect his siblings. If your family faces any of these problems, it is critical to seek professional help for all members.

About the Author

Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.

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