How to move on from sibling conflict

Expert, Jeanne Safer, shows the way out of the sibling-rivalry maze

by Psychologies

Having issues with your brother or sister? Break the rivalry routine with these seven top tips... 

1. Admit there is a problem

It sounds obvious but, very often, we lie to ourselves, as well as others, about why we don’t see our siblings: ‘If only she lived nearer/ I don’t get along with her husband/I can’t stand his children.’

2. Ask yourself: ‘how have I contributed to this?’

Reflect back on the family dynamic when you were growing up. What roles did you both play? What could have caused the problems between you?

3. Focus on what you like about the other person

What did you admire about your sibling when you were growing up? Are there things you enjoy doing together despite the problems?

4. Make the first move 

Don’t wait for them to do it because you could be waiting for a long time. Tell them that, although you know there are problems between the two of you, you’d like to have a better relationship. Don’t expect them to jump into your arms. This is a process...

5. Be patient 

Your attempts at reconciliation might not work, or might not work immediately. But, if you don’t try, there’s your guarantee it won’t work.

6. Be realistic

If you’ve never been great friends, and your lives are now very different, it may not be possible for you to be best friends. Aim for the middle ground.

7. Remain hopeful 

Life events can bring about unexpected reconciliation between siblings later on, for example getting married or divorced, the birth of a child, illness or death of another family member. Very often, reconciliations are brought about by the next generation. Children wanting to spend time with their cousins and getting along can be a big factor in healing the rifts of the past.

Try our test to find out what your childhood role is, along with advice on how to break the routine. 

Photograph: iStock

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