Your actions as a big sister may determine if your siblings regard you as a supportive role model or a manipulating tyrant. As an older sibling, you have the opportunity to make both a positive and negative impact on your siblings' behaviors, development and future relationships. Take advantage of your influence to teach them good behavior and provide them with the support that they need to become well-developed, effectively functioning individuals.
Model Good Behavior
You might not realize how much your younger siblings look up to you, using your behavior as their guide. Regardless of whether your behavior is right or wrong, your younger siblings are likely to imitate it. For example, younger siblings are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior after their older siblings have done so, suggests a study by the Virginia Commonwealth published in "Psychological Medicine." Avoid engaging in destructive or inappropriate behaviors when you are around your younger siblings. Instead, display behaviors that demonstrate respect, good manners, responsibility and kindness.
Provide Emotional Support
Even as children, siblings provide an outlet for eeach other to explore and express thoughts and feelings. Sibling relationships, even when there is some normal rivalry, teach children to socialize and develop fruitful relationships later in life, found a study conducted by the University of Cambridge Centre for Family Research and published in the book "Social Understanding and Social Lives." Be mindful of how the type of relationships you have with your younger siblings will determine what their adult relationships will be like. Listen to them when they are going through difficult situations, and help them brainstorm solutions to problems. Show how much you care with affectionate gestures such as hugging; tell them you love them, often.
Be Mindful of Birth Order
Birth order can be very influential on your personality and on how you relate to your younger siblings. First-borns are usually over-responsible, reliable, well-behaved, high-achievers and perfectionists, explains human behavior and education expert Dr. Gail Gross in her article, "The Achiever, the Peacemaker and the Life of the Party: How Birth Order Affects Personality." If you are a first-born, you are likely to take on a leadership role among your younger siblings, but be careful to avoid being overly dominant and manipulating. Be a sister they can count on when they need support, without always solving problems for them. Allow your younger brothers and sisters to develop their own personalities and independence. If you are a middle child, you are probably the peacemaker of the family and can use your social skills to bring everyone together, avoiding conflict.
Avoid Jealousy and Competition
Many siblings spend childhood in constant competition for their parents' attention, leading to feelings of jealousy and resentment that accumulate over the years. Avoid letting these feelings spill over in the relationships you have with your siblings later on in life. Ask yourself if you have negative feelings towards your siblings because you feel they received more attention or had better opportunities growing up. Make an effort to put these feelings behind you, forgiving your parents and siblings for the past. Consider how the benefits of having a close relationship with your siblings outweigh living a life full of negative feelings towards them. Accept that your parents probably did the best they could, and loved you equally. Understand that each of you is a different person, with your own strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments.
Lauri Revilla has been writing articles on mental health, wellness, relationships and lifestyle for more than six years. She moved to San Antonio, Texas, from Mexico in 2006. She holds a Master of Science in Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University.