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Cultivating Sibling Relationships

April 5, 2012
You have the Opportunity to make the best friends of your life.  Your siblings will always know you better than your friends because they see you day in and day out, good days and bad.  They are the people you don’t put a good face on for.  Your friends will come and go, but your family will be there every day of your life.  Don’t waste the opportunity.    Below is a list of tips and things I’ve learned from my experiences as the oldest of 9 siblings. I hope these help you make the most of your friendships with your siblings.  If you have any ideas I’d LOVE to hear them!

Cartoon sketch of my siblings and me, done by Susie

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Rule #1 in cultivating ANY relationship.  Ask yourself “Would I like it if my brother said this to me?”  “What could my sister do that would totally make my day?”  And then DO it!

  • Learn to cook

    My sisters, Mom and I at a wedding in Chicago

It has long been my philosophy that the way to ANYONE’S heart is through their stomach.  It’s something of a family joke.  I have fond memories of my 3 year old brother running into the kitchen the minute he heard me start to cook and then climbing up on a chair to watch the entire process saying “yum, yum” the whole time.  Now that’s devotion.  The sweet thing is that that same brother (who is now 18) has developed a similar interest in the kitchen… er, FOOD and we now bond over cooking together. Or, maybe I should just say we bond over me cooking and him eating?

Feeding people is one of my favorite ways to take care of them.  And everyone LOVES the hand that feeds them.  🙂

Plus, you will have the wonderful advantage of being able to make them their favorite food when they’ve had a rough day (or week… or month).  There’s a lot of truth in the phrase “Comfort Food.”  (In Katie’s case this is Chocolate Chip Pancakes, just FYI)

  • Give them privacy

Growing up in a big family privacy was a treat.  I CRAVED my privacy.  I was jealously protective of it.  We need to realize that our other siblings feel the same way.

My brother and I being "matchy matchy" with our Converse tennis shoe

  • Listen    

One sure fire method of making people not like you is to ignore them when they’re talking.  Have you ever had this happen?  You’re talking to someone and before you’re done they’ve either lost interest and walked away, or turned to someone else and started talking.  It’s happened to me.  And, it didn’t make me super excited about starting another conversation with that person, either.  Be available.  Listen.  Take what they have to say seriously.  Or, humorously, if they’re telling a joke. (This is especially useful with little brothers.  If they tell a joke, LAUGH.  Even if you totally didn’t get the punch line, because they told it in the wrong place, or forgot it altogether, or ONLY told you the punch line and forgot the rest of the joke.) I speak from experience.

  • Share

While I am a firm believer in the sanctity of personal space and respecting other people’s belonging, I also believe that there’s a trust and comradery that grows out of sharing.  By this I do NOT mean that you should look at your siblings belongings as your own.  My personal pet peeve is people borrowing my books.  Without ASKING.  Oh boy.  I’m completely willing to lend my books to siblings.  But, I prefer them to ask first.  So, maybe I’m still working on the sharing thing.  🙂

  • Find common ground and build on it

You must have SOMETHING in common.  You have the same genes!  You probably have a LOT more in common with your siblings than you think you do.  Find something, no matter how small it may seem and make the most of it.  My sisters and I enjoy doing many things together, but we haven’t always been that way.  We’ve learned from spending oodles of time together what similar interests we have.  And we make sure to make time to do things together that we all enjoy. Sometimes this just means that we make a point of watching our favorite tv shows together.  Sometimes it means we actually set aside a day (or evening) for “Sister Time” and we concentrate just on relaxing and being together.

Touring a botanical garden last summer

  • Depend on them

Learn their strengths and show them you depend on them.  I live with four of my sisters in a house.  And I’ll be the first to admit that they have strengths I do NOT.  For instance, I’m completely thumbs when it comes to doing anything “handy.”  Stephanie and Katie have installed light switches, hung curtain rods, fixed windows and doors and I don’t know what all…  They’re my “little” sisters, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that they are always going to be bigger and stronger and better at that kind of thing than I am.  My 18 year old brother (and actually, probably my 10 year old brother too) knows more about computers than I do, even though I’ve been using a computer since before he was born…

  •  Ask for their help

This goes right along with ‘Depend on Them.’  I love feeling useful.  Most people do. So, make opportunities for everyone to use their strengths.

  • Laugh together

    Sarah Beth and I Laughing Together

Have inside jokes.  It’s totally ok.

  • Remember the good times and try to forget the bad

If you live with someone for most of your life, you’re GOING to have little squabbles.  It’s bound to happen.  The trick is to let the hurts go.  Concentrate on the good things, instead of holding onto grudges. You have to be the bigger person in every situation.  And trust me, after awhile it just gets so easy to forgive and forget you hardly even notice.

  • Don’t hold grudges

Don’t hold grudges.  It’s so important.  If your sibling said something that hurt you, let them know that it hurt.  And if they apologize, accept it and let it go at that.  There’s nothing worse than a squabble in which someone brings up a 10 year old grievance.

It takes two to Tango.  And that means that, while two people can really get themselves into a mess of miscommunications and hurt feelings, two people can also work together in total harmony and achieve something beautiful and beneficial for themselves and everyone around them.

In my line of work (flower shop) I deal with a lot of families who have recently lost loved ones.  One thing I’ve noticed is that grief brings out the best or the worst in a family.  Some families come into the shop to order flowers and can’t stop fighting.  Others rally together and console each other.  Do your best to make your family one that sticks together in tough situations and grows closer because of them.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Susannah permalink
    April 6, 2012 8:36 am

    This is a great reminder and an great post! I appreciate you! ❤


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