How to Improve Brother and Sister Relationships

by Zora Hughes

Your siblings are the only relatives who go through most of your life with you, according to Jeffrey Kluger, author of "The Sibling Effect," in a September 2011 article on Developing a strong bond with siblings starts in childhood. If you have children, don't let gender, personality differences or conflicts keep them from building memories and a close, familial bond with each other. If those things are affecting your relationship with your own adult brothers and sisters, make an effort to improve your sibling relationships by committing to treat each other with love, respect and as equals.

Childhood Brother and Sister Relationships

Treat your kids fairly. Children notice from a very young age how they are treated by their parents as compared to their siblings, according to sociologist Christine Carter in a January 2010 article on the Greater Good Science Center's website. She recommends that you shouldn't focus on treating children exactly the same but instead focus on treating them fairly, in terms of the amount of affection and attention shown. You should also avoid double standards as the children grow into teens, such as allowing your boys to date at a certain age but not your girls.

Set regular family bonding time. As kids get involved in different activities, they may wind up rarely seeing each other during the week, which could cause them to drift apart. Prevent this by setting aside time each week for family bonding, such as family game nights or mandatory family dinners at least a few nights a week.

Plan special activities that all the siblings enjoy together. Take the kids to gender-neutral places that you know both your boys and girls will enjoy together. For example, taking the kids to a natural history museum to see dinosaur bones might only be interesting to one of your kids, but going to a family-friendly water park is something you know they all will enjoy. Sharing fond memories can make your kids more willing to work out conflicts with each other, according to Kyla Boyse, R.N., in a University of Michigan report on sibling rivalry.

Teach your kids tools needed to work out their own conflicts. This includes teaching them how to respond calmly to emotionally charged situations, according to Carter. She recommends playing a coaching role when conflicts arise between siblings. But too much involvement can be misconstrued as you taking sides. Working it out on their own can bring brothers and sisters closer, especially if they can avoid getting into trouble with you for fighting.

Adult Brother and Sister Relationships

Let go of silly childhood hurts. Stop bringing up the time your brother threw you into the deep end of the pool when you couldn't swim, for example, and perhaps he will stop talking about all the pranks you played to embarrass him in high school. It is important to forgive your sibling for any perceived childhood slights that have bothered you in order to move forward as the mature adults you both have become, according to family relationship expert and "Real Simple" contributor Jane Isay.

Show up for each other's big and small moments. Your sibling is sure to be thrilled to see you at major milestone events, such as a graduate school graduation or wedding. However, showing up for smaller events can really mean something to your sibling, according to Isay, such as your sister's first triathlon or her daughter's kindergarten graduation.

Treat each other like equals. If you are the big sister, don't continue to treat your adult little brother like a 10-year-old. Don't lecture him about his choice of clothing, be condescending about his dates or boss him around, especially in public. Learn to hold your tongue if you disapprove of choices he makes. But if you must say something, find ways to offer advice as suggestions without trying to impose your will on him.

Stay in contact regularly. Don't make distance an excuse to be emotionally distant from your sibling. Text your sister at least a few days a week just to say, "Hey," or comment occasionally on the recent pictures she posted on her social media website. Make time for occasional phone calls to stay abreast of what is happening in each other's lives.

Stay out of family drama. Don't let other fighting family members draw you and your siblings into the fray. Gossiping and constantly taking sides will keep you and your siblings from trusting each other, according to Isay. Make a pact with your brothers and sisters not to get sucked in when your parents want to complain about one of you or when a nosy aunt tries to get the dirt about your siblings' personal lives. Make it clear that you don't want to get involved and that you don't appreciate them talking negatively to you about your siblings.

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  • Compliment your siblings for growth and major accomplishments in their lives. It will mean a lot coming from a brother or sister who has seen them at their worst or who was there at the start as they were working to achieve a dream.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.

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