Remember the good old days? The days when you used to squabble and argue your way through the evenings and weekends with your teenage siblings? Well, those days are over, but your relationships with these people certainly aren’t. So, how do you go about spending time with your now all-grown-up siblings without reverting to old ways?
Having an adult relationship with a sibling can be tricky if you haven’t been in touch for a while or have let teenage rivalries drive you apart. Keep in mind that people change; just like you have matured, grown, and changed, so have your siblings. You owe it to yourself and your family to give the relationship a chance. Of course, you have to do it right.
The secret to getting along with your siblings is really all about you. A lot of how good or bad your relationship is, hinges on how you treat your siblings, view them and react to them. Below are several simple yet effective strategies for getting along with your siblings as adults.
12 ways to get along with siblings as adults:
1. Adopt a “what happened in childhood stays in childhood” approach.
A lot of us tend to hang onto the past and use it against our siblings. Some had tougher childhoods than others, and while there is a reason you hang onto the past, it’s best to take this up with your therapist. Remember that your siblings were also navigating their childhoods and that you should go easy on them. If you want to be friends with your siblings and want to develop healthy relationships, you have to leave the past in its place. What happened in childhood stays in childhood. Start afresh!
2. Stop seeing your sibling in a child/teen format.
Because we grew up with our siblings, it’s easy to keep seeing them as the child and teenager that they once were. It can be hard to connect with someone as an adult if you are seeing and treating them as a child. If you can’t respect that your sister or brother is no longer a child and rather an adult in his/her own right, you are going to struggle to connect and bond. Every time you see or consider your kid brother or sister as a child, put the thought out of your mind and think again.
3. Reassess who your siblings are and apply some respect for that.
We have this idea in our minds of who our siblings are based on who they were as kids. Think about this… when you were a kid, you behaved and reacted in a certain way. Think of who you used to be as a child and now think about how much you have changed. Are you still the same person? The answer is probably “no”.
We change as we grow older, and we become the adults we are as a result of what happens to us along the way. Try to reassess who your siblings are when spending time with them as adults. You wouldn’t disrespect any other adults you know just because they were once silly kids making poor choices. Instead, apply some respect and see them as an adult. You stand to get along a lot better if you do.
4. Make an effort to keep in touch.
As an adult wanting a relationship with your siblings that is good, you are going to have to set the scene for a healthy connection. You cannot expect your siblings to make the effort or to even be interested. The best way to spark the relationship and get it going is by keeping in touch.
You don’t have to visit every week or make daily phone calls, but send a message every few days. Become text buddies, and the rest will become a lot easier. See something funny while out? Why not snap a picture and send it on to your brother or sister. Chances are that they will appreciate the thought and laugh and will start seeing you in a new, positive light too.
5. Accept your differences.
There’s something we all have to accept in life and that is: everybody is different. Your siblings will undoubtedly have differences to you, and that’s okay. It’s the differences that keep things interesting. Imagine you were all the same! Accept and celebrate the differences. You would probably hate it if you had the same personality, opinions, and interests as your siblings anyway.
6. Include partners/spouses.
One way to ensure that your relationship with your adult siblings develops in a healthy way is to include your partners and spouses. It adds to the dynamic and keeps things interesting. You might find that you really get along with your brother’s wife, which could go a long way toward strengthening your relationship with your brother.
7. Apply tact as you would with a friend.
If you don’t like something that someone says and does and they are just your friend or an acquaintance, chances are that you will be tactful about it. You wouldn’t launch into a disapproving monologue about it or lash out if the topic was particularly sensitive to you. If someone upsets you or if you have to say something to someone that they might not like, you will be level-headed and gentle about it. This is because you have a bit of tact. Apply this very same tact to your responses, reactions, and treatment of your siblings, and it will be grounds for a great relationship to develop.
8. Keep it light.
Imagine what it would be like if you spent time with a friend that always wanted to discuss the past and get deep about it? Chances are that you would want to start avoiding that person. It’s much the same with your siblings. They would rather have a fun and entertaining time with you than dredge up the past, so keep it light. Be fun, tell jokes, relax, and let your hair down. This is a great way to connect with your siblings on another level.
9. Hang out without the parents.
If you think that you are going to develop the best possible relationship with your parents involved, you are wrong. There’s nothing wrong with hanging out with the parents, but people are generally more themselves away from the watchful eye of their parents. And you want to actually remove the whole family dynamic from your hangouts.
Go to dinner with your siblings and hit a karaoke bar afterward. Go to the movies and get take-outs on the way home. Go for a jog together and then head for breakfast. Do stuff without the parents and watch your relationship develop on a more personal level.
10. Meet up on neutral ground.
If you are finding it hard to connect with or get through to your siblings every time you visit them, try to change things up a bit. When you are entering someone else’s territory, you aren’t really on equal footing. If you visit your sibling at home, chances are that she will spend a lot of time supervising the kids and doing chores. It’s best to get to spot where your time will be best spent. Spend time with your siblings in neutral places, and you will find it easier to connect.
11. Hold your tongue – don’t interfere.
Most siblings have vast differences in the way they do things. This is because we are all different. If you see a stranger parenting their child in a way that you wouldn’t, would you interfere? The answer most likely is “probably not”. Don’t be too fast and free with your opinions on how your siblings deal with things, or you might be faced with a bad situation on your hands. It is best not to undermine your sibling in their own space – unless there’s abuse involved, of course.
12. Avoid sensitive topics.
Everyone has that one or two topics that they are very sensitive about. With your siblings, you have the advantage of knowing what those topics are. If you want to get along with your siblings, avoid bringing these topics up, and if they do come up, distance yourself from them. Of course, you shouldn’t have to use too many avoidance tactics around your siblings but make use of them when it’s going to keep the peace.
All in all
Having a relationship with your siblings can be very rewarding, but if this is something new for you, take your time and try to do things right the first time around. With the right technique and strategy, you can expect to steadily develop a healthy and happy relationship with your siblings. Good luck!