How to Deal With Sibling Rivalry in Adult Children

by Eliza Martinez

When siblings grow into adults, it doesn’t mean that sibling squabbles automatically disappear. Sometimes, arguments and competiveness can persist into adulthood – if you let them. Adult rivalry among brothers and sisters can damage sibling relationships, while minimizing it can preserve them, notes Jeremy Boyle, Research Associate at Brigham Young University of the Forever Families website. Whether you’re a parent who wants to see an end to your grownup children’s rivalry, or you’re an adult who’s caught up in a seemingly unending rivalry with your siblings, taking steps to keep the peace can go a long way toward having harmonious family events.

For Parents

Avoid comparisons among your adult children, suggests Boyle. This can make your kids feel like you favor another sibling or don't think that one measures up to another. While this might sound like something that you would hope your kids outgrew, the truth is that children always want to please their parents, no matter their ages. Don't compare your kids' jobs, children, spouses, financial situations or homes.

Talk to your kids. Perhaps they don't realize how their interactions affect the rest of the family. Sit down as a family and discuss the situation. Help your children come up with solutions for their rivalry that can help avoid fights and conflict. Maybe they'll agree to disagree, decide to make certain topics of conversation off limits and agree to walk away from when things get heated so they can calm down.

Stay out of the sibling rivalry. Clearly tell your children that you won't take sides and don't want to be part of their fights and disagreements. This doesn't mean you can't offer advice and a listening ear when your kids need you, but if they know that's as far as it goes, eventually they won't even come to you with their disputes.

Encourage your kids to see each other's points of view. You raised them, but that doesn't mean they think, react or feel things the same way. They each bring their own baggage and personality to the sibling relationships and helping each see their siblings' sides can help your kids understand each other.

Seek help. If all else fails, help your kids find a neutral person to assist them in working through their issues. A family therapist is an ideal choice because she can work through emotions with siblings and work with them to come to a resolution to the issues they face. This can help your kids create and maintain a healthy and fulfilling relationship throughout adulthood.

For Siblings

Avoid trying to change your siblings. Despite a similar upbringing, you each have your own personalities, likes and dislikes, so it goes to follow that you aren't the same person. Instead, accept your differences and embrace that they make your relationships unique.

Don't compete with each other. This doesn't mean that you won't get jealous of your siblings' successes, particularly if those successes are something that you'd like to have as well. The trick to is to keep that to yourself and congratulate your siblings on their new jobs, marriages, babies or big raises instead of trying to one up them with your brand new car or bigger house.

Talk to your siblings. Arrange times when you can sit down together without outside distraction and hash out the problems in your relationships. Then, work together to come up with solutions. This might even mean taking turns going to family functions where emotions run high and conflict occurs.

Spend time together in neutral locations. Perhaps you could meet for coffee once a week or have dinner at a restaurant once a month. This lets you create shared experiences away from the life events that cause conflict -- at the same time, being in public can help prevent you from coming to blows.

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About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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