Coping with estranged siblings can be much more emotional and difficult than coping with an estranged friend. Your shared past amplifies the issues that keep you from talking to one another. Some siblings need the assistance of a therapist to reconcile and create a more healthy relationship.
Revisiting Childhood Roles
The same roles and issues you had in childhood often arise when dealing with your adult siblings, according to Jane Ginsberg, clinical psychologist and mediator, quoted in the "MORE Magazine" article, “Quibbling Siblings: Eldercare Edition.” See if you can find patterns from your childhood, such as a bossy older sister or an irresponsible brother. Decide to deal with your siblings as they are today, accepting their accomplishments, responsibilities and feelings. Comment on something you admire about each sibling or ask about relevant issues through email, a text or a written letter. Forge a new perspective.
Reconnecting with siblings can occur because of a shared goal, such as caring for your aging parents, according to Sara Honn Qualls, a psychologist quoted in the "MORE Magazine" article. Contact your siblings through a mediator and ask for everyone to come together to help Mom and Dad. Agree to focus on the designated purpose and allow the mediator to help you and your siblings set aside conflicts to benefit your parents.
The Golden Rule
It is easy to take your siblings for granted and treat them with less care than you might a stranger or friend, according to Scott Myers, professor of communication studies, in the "Psychology Today" article, “Can Grown-up Siblings Learn to Get Along?” Treat your siblings with compassion and care, even when they refuse to talk to you. Continue to contact them through social media pages, email, text or other written forms if they won’t talk face-to-face. Don’t slam the door shut on your relationship until you have tried everything. Realize that change is possible.
Sometimes estrangement is a healthy thing, says Susanne Babbel, a trauma therapist, writing for "Psychology Today." If your relationship with your siblings is toxic, separation can allow you to sort out your issues and reconcile when there are positive changes in your siblings’ behavior. Maintain contact information so they can find you when that time comes and focus on other priorities in the meantime.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
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