Why siblings matter: Staying close to your brothers and sisters as adults
I’d consider myself lucky in terms of family dynamics. I have a large family that will find any excuse in the book to come together to eat, drink, and be merry. Just a few weeks ago a bunch of family members found yet another reason to come together. we were stuffing our faces exchanging appetizer recipes, while watching a Superbowl game that our home team wasn’t even playing in. Like I said, any excuse to get us together to celebrate. My immediate family is just as close… my parents still remain married (a rare phenomenon when you consider divorce rates these days) and my siblings and I are all located within a ten-minute radius of my parents. My favorite sister, Tara, lives across the country in Jackson, Wyoming but we remain super close and talk every day. I guess you can say we were blessed to all have each other and enjoy remaining close to each other in life.
When friends observe the family dynamics I have, it’s almost as if they are envious of being able to see the lighthearted exchanges that come so seamlessly within my family dynamics. I have never to this day witnessed a family that loves being together and have fun to the degree we do. This got me thinking…. Why? Why aren’t all families able to keep that close contact and maintain relationships? Why do siblings, your very own blood, think it’s okay to have minimal closeness and surface level conversations when they actually come together? How and why does it get to that point?
This pandemic has proven that no one is guaranteed a tomorrow and that life here on earth is short. It’s crucial to maintain those connections not only with all relatives, but most importantly, with your siblings and immediate family. Of course life can get busy, everyone is always on the go, however finding time and putting in the effort to maintain close contact with your siblings has plenty of benefits such as building a better support system, expanding your social circle (heck my brothers friends like me more than him), creating a strong bond between your children, having someone you can lean on, the list goes on and on.
When it comes to siblings, it seems like the dynamics can shift from sibling to sibling based on personality and age difference, so either you can be the closest of friendships, or the just simply disconnected. But what about falling in between? Maybe in the past while growing up, you simply co-existed with that other person for a majority of your life, knowing that you cared about them, but also that you’re not about to go out of your way to tell them your deepest, darkest secrets. So, if it was like that back in the day, how can you transform it today? Here are a few ways you can start building a bond with your siblings:
- Find a common hobby. During the pandemic, my brother and I grew closer than ever before by competing in cornhole. We were basically interacting everyday as result of only co-mingling with family during covid and it was nice to get close, because it wasn’t always like that. Even when we lived at home, we seemed to cohabit the same area without ever feeling the need to interact with one another, and that was fine by the both of us. Occasionally he’d conversate, but my brother had always been a closed book otherwise. However, sharing a hobby certainly brought us closer than ever before. The bonus? We were outside, being active and enjoying the nice weather.
- Book a trip. Pack your bags ya’ll, we’re going to DISNEY! Or Texas! Or Maine! Really, it doesn’t matter where you go as long as its somewhere different and outside of your state for you to create new memories and experience. Family vacations promote togetherness and creating happy memories and allow both parties to let lose. Travel encourages you to step outside your comfort zone and let go of anything that’s weighing you down. It provides the opportunity for reflection and inspire change. So many travelers, myself included, feel that their character evolves slightly when they travel or enjoy new life experiences. Imagine sharing all this with your sibling/s? You could witness their strengths that will support you throughout your lifetime together, and even come to understand their weakness, something that may bring you closer together.
- Find a way to connect with your sister/brother-in law. I think this is a big one, because you hear many people complain about how so and so relationship changes once they got married. The truth is people change, especially after marriage, and you need to find a way to be more agreeable and play nice. I have a close friend who basically lost her best friend/sister to a guy who was controlling and manipulating. She had to comes to terms with the fact that her sister made a choice to create a life with this man and control only what she could. She decided in order to remain close with her sister she had to ‘play nice’ with her husband. She began finding wats to connect with him over his hobbies, such as discussing his favorite football team. She even went as far as to ask to watch a game together, attempting to build the relationship up. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it!
- Plan a dinner date. The easiest to connect to your siblings is to simply make a plan with them! If your siblings have memories from a childhood restaurant you all went to, why not take a trip down memory lane if you all live nearby. Or if you are looking to bond with your sibling why don’t you ask them to pick their favorite restaurant. You can accommodate them as well as have an easy conversation starter, asking them what their favorite dishes or memories are at the establishment. This is a perfect time to bring up past dinners at mom and dads, maybe you all shared a favorite dish your parents made or remember a funny dinner story. For us, we always poke jokes at my parents for making a huge number of meatballs that’s weren’t even edible because they used cinnamon flavored ritz crackers -BIG MISTAKE. Humor has a funny way of getting people to lighten up and connect.
- Avoid sensitive topics (politics, religious,). It sounds like common sense, but too many of us don’t follow this cardinal rule and find ourselves at dinner making triggered pronouncements. I’ve witnessed it myself as my parents has tarnished family game nights over why the X is better than Y (my dad’s a republican, my mom is a democrat). Clearly the proof is in the pudding that this is not a good topic to bring anyone closer, especially as each parent attempts to reel us in to take their side. So, if you’re not on the same wavelength as your brother or sister, it’s smart just to steer clear of mentioning politics, and change topics quickly.
Overall, the most successful relationships start from a place of authenticity and pure intentions. That means showing up in our truth, with no ulterior motives, a genuine curiosity about the other person, and respect. If you have any bones to pick with your sibling, save it for an appropriate time and place. If an issue is lingering, then before you implement any ideas above, it will be important to communicate your feelings to your sibling to get any issues resolved, and if that’s the case do your best to find a solution and put the past behind. Sometimes we need to participate equally in a conversation to make a meaningful connection. But not always. Listening can be just as powerful as talking, if not more, when it comes to establishing a bond with another person. Maybe at the end of the day, the best way to stay close with your siblings through life it to remain open and listen with an open heart.