Being a big brother is a gift and a responsibility. Sibling rivalry is common, but younger siblings can also be your allies, cheerleaders or best friends. Whether you have a strained relationship with your younger siblings or you just want to become closer to them, there are opportunities for you to be a better big brother. The process will take some effort, but an improved relationship with your siblings is a worthwhile reward.
Be present. Talk to your siblings about important events in their lives. Attending events like graduations are expected, but they may want you to attend a lecture they give or an event they host. When you ask them if they'd like you to attend an event, you demonstrate that you care for them. Look out for events that are important to them; you might improve your relationship by surprising them.
Listen. Real listening means offering empathy, hearing what your siblings have to say and letting them know you hear them. Active listening is an important tool in many relationships and helps foster better relationships. Listening enables you to hear and understand important things your siblings have to say, whether it's about their feelings or just how their day went.
Show respect. Respect for your younger siblings is vital in fostering and enhancing your relationship. Respect means honoring their choices and what they do -- and not being judgmental. Look out for their welfare if they are doing harmful things to themselves, but do not force them to make changes; voice your concerns and do not press the issue. Respect extends to their friends and partners; be courteous to the people they bring into their lives.
Spend time with your siblings. Being with siblings fosters closeness. You can negotiate with them on activities you both like, or take time to do things they like. The more things you do with your siblings, the more history you share. You could take trips with your siblings, or just sit with them and talk about how their life is going. No matter what the activity is, spending time together is valuable.
Give support. Support comes in many forms, from financial to emotional. Offering support can be life changing for a sibling. Letting a younger sibling know you are in her corner and giving support when she needs it show care and love, both of which are important for maintaining important relationships.
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- Ask your younger siblings how you can be a better big brother to them. They'll have the best input on how to improve your relationship.
- If you and your sibling have had issues in the past, improve your relationship with them gradually. Trying to force yourself into their lives can have detrimental effects.
S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.