Sibling Relationships: How to Tighten the Bond with Your Sister or Brother

Your relationship with your family is one of the most important relationships in your lifetime. Here’s how to strengthen sibling relationships.

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Friends come and go, but family is forever—especially sibling relationships. While you may love your parents and your extended family, nothing can quite compare to the relationships you have with your siblings. Sure you might roughhouse with your brothers and you probably bicker with your sisters from time to time, but at the end of the day the love and support you get from your siblings is unmatched by any friendship.

There has been a lot of research to support the value of a healthy sibling relationship in a child’s life. As Psych Central reports, Laurie Kramer, Ph.D., researcher, Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Professor of Applied Family Studies at the University of Illinois explains “siblings are closer to the social environments that children find themselves in during the majority of their day, which is why it’s important not to overlook the contributions that they make on who we end up being.”

Siblings influence your happiness

Brothers running in the house
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While your parents may teach you important life lessons that support a child’s development, a positive sibling relationship can lead to positive social skills in kids, leading to benefits when those kids become teenagers and adults as well. Clearly, a positive, loving and supportive sibling relationship is a crucial aspect of healthy development and a happy life, but it’s not always easy to maintain a strong sibling bond, especially as you get older and life gets complicated. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just might take a little effort.

For starters, you need to all agree that what happened in the past, stays in the past. Kids fight, they bully each other and they make mistakes. Don’t let that time your brother shoved you into a pile of mud or that time your sister embarrassed you at a birthday party ruin the relationship you could have now. Yes, you had conflicts when you were kids, but now that you are adults, you need to be able to forgive those past confrontations and emotions so you can move forward to a mutually loving and respectful relationship. As Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, argues, “siblings who battled a lot as kids may become closer as adults–and more emotionally skilled too, often clearly recalling what their long-ago fights were about and the lessons they took from them.”

disputes between brothers

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As Jeff Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us, argues, “siblings who battled a lot as kids may become closer as adults–and more emotionally skilled too, often clearly recalling what their long-ago fights were about and the lessons they took from them.” Speaking of respect, without it you will never fully connect with your siblings. You are taught to respect each other’s space, interests, feelings and priorities when you are kids, and the same rules apply for sibling relationships when you are an adult. You don’t need to agree on everything, and chances are you won’t, especially as you are forced to deal with some difficult situations like the care of an ailing family member or your family’s financial future, but you definitely need to respect one another’s opinions.

They are all part of a union

brothers cooking
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Embrace your unique traits, and celebrate what makes you individuals. Just because you and your siblings grew up together doesn’t mean you are all the same. You are not interchangeable parts in a family unit; on the contrary you each offer your own strengths and weaknesses, and you need to not only be aware of your differences, but also welcome those traits and how you complement each other in your relationship.

Often sibling rivalry develops when parents try to compare children, thereby forcing competition between their kids. Instead of seeing how you and your siblings measure up against one another, focus on how you all differ and excess in different aspects of your life or careers. Praise your siblings for what they have achieved, and don’t focus on how it lines up to your own accomplishments.

family time

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Build in regular family time. This can be difficult as you grow older and have families of your own, but regardless of how hard it may be to schedule some face time, it’s an important part of maintaining that sibling bond, and passing on those priorities to your own kids. Whether you commit to regular holidays as a family, you plan a vacation together or you enjoy weekly family dinners, getting together to relive old memories and make new memories will help strengthen your sibling bond at any age.

Above all, never forget that your sibling relationships are by far the most lasting and arguably the most important relationships in your lifetime. As Huff Post reports, authors Stephen Bank and Michael Kahn write in their book, The Sibling Bond, that a sibling relationship “lasts longer than our relationship with our children, certainly longer than with a spouse, and with the exception of a few lucky men and women, longer than with a best friend.” You may lose touch with friends over time, but your siblings will be around for the long haul. When life throws you curve balls you’ll want your brothers and sisters in your corner, and they’ll need you as well. Dedicate some effort to nurturing those relationships, and cherish that support system and sibling love.

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