15 Ways to Deal (Tips) With Parental Favoritism in Adulthood 

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

You might have suspected that your parents had a preference for your brother or sister when you were growing up, but what do you do if it is now glaringly obvious in your adult years? Parental favoritism isn’t a myth – it actually exists. Those who have to deal with it often have a hard time coming to terms with it. 

If you’re in a situation where your parents show favoritism to your other adult siblings, learning how to deal with it can really help you to find peace within yourself and maintain a healthy relationship with your parents and your favored siblings. 

There’s no need to spend the rest of your adult life feeling hurt and upset because your parents seem to favor your sibling. Instead, take the steps required to bring about positive change in your relationship. Below, we look at the 15 ways you can deal with adult parental favoritism.

Adult parental favoritism: How to deal with it in 15 ways

1. Talk to your parents about it.

This might seem like a daunting task, but it can really help. You don’t have to get confrontational about it or say antagonistic things, but you can get the message across subtly. For example, mention that you notice that they give your sibling and their family more attention and ask if there is an underlying reason for that. If you are humble and approachable while doing this, you won’t have to upset anyone during the process. 

2. Choose the right time to bring the issue up with your parents.

Going direct to the source can save you a lot of hassle, but how you do it will make all of the difference. Chances are that your parents don’t want to hurt you with their behavior, so hearing that you are noticing favoritism is bound to be a surprise to them, even if they know they favor one child over another. Make sure that you are on good terms with your parents and that there are no emotions or arguments brewing. Only then bring up the issue in a calm, gentle, and caring way. 

3. Get your feelings out – journal about it.

You might find that your frustrations are causing more upset than the situation itself. Sometimes, instead of yelling at someone, simply getting your feelings out in a healthy way can be better. Get a journal and write down your feelings about the scenario. Detail how you feel – don’t hold back. Once your feelings are out there, you will experience some relief. The favoritism might even stop bothering you. If it works, make journaling a habit.

4. When discussing the issue, make sure you only discuss how you feel. 

If you do bring the issue up, avoid being accusatory or confrontational. Instead, only speak about how it makes you feel. Make it abundantly clear that your feelings are at risk and that you are not antagonizing or accusing anyone. 

5. Avoid the urge to compete with your sibling for attention.

As a kid, you can probably get away with being competitive with your siblings, but this won’t really work as an adult. In fact, it will merely make you look insecure and immature. Avoid this. Instead of competing with your sibling, take the time to focus on what your strong points are and appreciate your sibling for theirs. 

6. Talk to your sibling about it.

Perhaps your sibling has a part to play in the favoritism. If you can, talk to your sibling about the favoritism, but do so in a way that isn’t confrontational. After all, your sibling isn’t responsible for how your parents make you feel. Pick a good time to chat and merely tell them how the favoritism is making you feel.

7. Consider if it’s possibly just in your mind.

If you are the type to feel jealous, you may be simply noticing nothing. If your parents are nice and supportive to your sibling, your jealousy might take over, and it might seem to you that they are showing favoritism. Think about it? Do your parents offer you the same kindness and support? Perhaps they do, but just at different times. 

8. Confide in a friend.

If you don’t want to rock the boat too much, talk to a close friend who is level-headed. Tell them what is happening and how it makes you feel. Your friend, who knows you and your situation well, will be able to give you some sound input. In fact, maybe simply venting to a friend will relieve enough of the frustration to help you let it go. 

9. Consider why there might be favoritism – what is your role in it?

Are you behaving in a way that makes your parents favor your sibling over you? Perhaps you are always disrespectful or avoid spending time with the family, whereas your sibling is always courteous and puts in the effort for family quality time. Give it a bit of thought – perhaps you are to blame in some way. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you realize that you are – simply put in the work to bring about healthy change. 

10. Try to spend more quality time with your parents.

Your parents might just need a reason to reconnect with you. Start to put in more effort with them so that you can spend real quality time together and bond. You might discover that your parents don’t favor your sibling, but have just been given the opportunity to get closer to them. 

11. Don’t blame your sibling for your parent’s favoritism.

Treating your sibling poorly because the parents are showing favoritism to them is a fool’s errand. This won’t change the situation; in fact, it might exacerbate it as you will be seen in a bad light. Instead, appreciate your sibling for who they are. Maintain a healthy relationship with your siblings regardless of how your parents might be making you feel. 

12. If you are the favored one, try to get your parents to include your siblings more.

If you are the adult child being favored and you have noticed it, chances are that your sibling has noticed it too. Try to mitigate the problem by encouraging your parents to pay more attention to your sibling. Try to include your sibling in as much as possible. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed. 

13. Spend time focusing on yourself.

Instead of obsessing over the problem, take a step back and work on becoming the best version of yourself that you can be. 

14. Stop seeking family approval – build your own external support system.

If you focus all of your attention on getting the approval of your parents and family in your adult years, chances are that you will miss out on building a solid support system for yourself outside of the family. If you notice favoritism in the family, let it be while you create a support system of your own. Having close friends who support and love you is just as good as having family. 

15. Let it go – there’s no point in letting it consume you. 

If you find that the issue of parental favoritism is consuming you and you want it to stop, make a concerted effort to let it go. Wrap your head around the fact that the approval of your parents isn’t the most important thing in life, and while it would be nice to fight for more attention and approval, it may just be damaging to your happiness and your mental health. Focus on letting it go and focusing rather on all of the good and positive things in your life.

Last word

Dealing with parental favoritism can be a hurtful experience, but if you have the strength to rise above it and either let it go or find ways to work through it, your life will be far more rewarding.  

If adult parental favoritism is plaguing your life, make a decision to put a stop to it. The only way it can bother you is if you let it. If you want to try to rectify the situation, consider the above pointers and try to implement them as graciously as you can. Best of luck.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.