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Relationships 101: Maintaining adult relationships with your siblings

By Tori Taylor, October 8 2019 —

Sibling relationships, for those of us that have them, are not always easy to maintain. As kids, there are all of the petty arguments and physical wrestling matches that take place under the same roof. You don’t have to think too much about trying to be friends with your brothers and sisters. In fact, it is more probable that you spent time plotting how to spend much less time together.  Whether you have one or six siblings, the relationship you have with them plays a role in your own well-being as an adult. We learn so much from the social interaction with those in our household. Think of how many times you practiced sharing and apologizing — even when you didn’t want to. Grade school teaches kids a lot of basic social behaviours but most of the big life lessons on socialization come from the household you grew up in. Learning to handle confrontation and navigating different opinions are crucial skills to have in adult-life. 

“Sibling relationships can teach us a lot about understanding, compassion, negotiation, conflict resolution, communication and emotion regulation, and can benefit how we relate to others we have relationships with,” says Katrina Shaw, a registered psychologist in Calgary during an interview with Canadian Living.

I remember being told by my mother that my sisters would be my best friends when I got older. I definitely did not believe her at all. I couldn’t imagine a time where I would want to spend free time with any of them. But as the years pass and life dramatically changes, I find myself wishing for closer relationships with them all. I am lucky to have a growing relationship with my youngest sister. Having a friend that shares your parents and the style in which you were raised forms an automatic bond that is rarely replicated in other friendships. 

Once you and your siblings have left the same home, it becomes tougher to maintain a friendship if effort isn’t put in on both ends. We all know that long-distance relationships have their difficulties. Even if you live in the same city as your sister or brother, it can still be hard to feel close to them if you don’t actively try. Luckily, there are several ways to build on your relationship as adulthood shifts the dynamic.

Grab a coffee:

Once a month, pick a date and go for coffee. To be honest, the beverage could be tea or almond milk. If you’d prefer, you could both sit down at a table and hold empty-ass paper cups — please recycle. The point resides only in the specific time set aside for each other. If an hour is all that can be allotted, then take that hour and enjoy each other’s company. It might be easy to get caught up in busy life and feel like there just isn’t time to see your siblings as often as you’d like. Find one hour a month to connect face-to-face. That’s all you need to maintain a relationship that you value. 

Set a phone date:

Sometimes schedules don’t match up to meet in person and that’s okay. Life can get so busy with school, work and extracurriculars. If a beverage or beverage-less date can’t pan out then pick a time for a phone call. Find 30 minutes or more to connect over the phone and share some life details. This is such a simple method of contact, but it’s often gets overlooked. I love calling my sister because she is 18 and can ramble a mile a minute. It actually makes me happy to hear her share her life with me, even if I can’t relate.  We don’t always have time to meet in person, but the phone calls between us allow me to feel much closer to her than I ever did while we lived in the same household. 

Send a text:

We are the generation of instant messaging. It has never been easier to stay connected to people than it is now. Sending a good morning or goodnight text message can go a long way if you’re looking to keep a relationship with someone that you don’t talk to or see very often. Interrupt the mechanical thumb-scroll and send a quick text to your brother. Check in and ask him about his day or a specific event that you know he has going on. Take that initiative to let him know you care.  Texting is so quick and noninvasive that it’s almost impossible to say you don’t have the time. 

Regardless of the relationships that you had with your siblings when you were young — good or bad — it’s healthy to maintain strong bonds with members of your family. Nothing that’s worthwhile is easy. You will always have to put in effort for the things in life that bring happiness. Staying close to the people who matter in your life will give you back much more than it takes. 

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