9 ways to stay connected to your adult siblings
Posted March 23
Updated March 24
Oh, the memories: as kids, there were hours and hours of Lego building, watching your favorite movie on repeat, bike riding, tree climbing, buying penny candy at the corner store and playing school (of course you were ALWAYS the teacher). As teenagers you battled acne together, confided in each other about your middle school crushes, argued about borrowing clothes and commiserated with each other about your parents’ “stupid” rules.
But now you and your siblings are adults, and life is suddenly much more complicated: school, jobs, spouses (or no spouses), children (your own or theirs), time, distance and differing political or religious views can change and affect your relationships with your siblings. Or, maybe you didn’t have a close relationship with your siblings growing up, and that challenging relationship has continued into your adulthood.
No matter the status of your relationships with your siblings now, research shows that strengthening or preserving your relationship with your brothers and sisters is a way to help you be happier and healthier throughout your life. Check out the tips below to stay connected to your brothers and sisters:
- Learn what your siblings are involved in and make active efforts to support them. Understand what they do for work or what they’re studying in school and ask them, “how’s it going?” Go to your younger sibling’s soccer games or go check out your older sibling’s new home or apartment. Know enough about your siblings to celebrate successes and offer support to challenges.
- Forgive and forget. Avoid bringing up mistakes made- whether from your childhood days or from last year’s Christmas party- and move forward. Trust that your siblings are doing their best and give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps your sibling has made poor life choices or battles personal challenges that have had a serious negative impact on you or your family. Continue to be patient and loving, but be sure to care for your own health and safety as you seek to help your sibling or maintain a relationship.
- Speak with kindness and treat your siblings as you would a friend- with respect. Don’t lash out on social media, take jabs during a family dinner or diminish your sibling’s opinions as wrong or stupid. Sometimes we treat a passersby on the street or an obnoxious co-worker with more compassion and patience than our own family members, and they deserve the same respect we give others.
- Keep trying! Do family vacations always end in an argument between you and your sister? Are family dinners awkward or uncomfortable because you have a hard time connecting with your brother? Keep trying. You’ll never regret genuine and sincere efforts to reach out or make a new connection.
- Communicate and keep your siblings in the loop. Will you be in town? Are you unable to attend the next family gathering? Are you preparing for a big exam and need prayers or good vibes? Technology makes it easier than ever to keep your siblings informed.
- Have fun together. As adults, family gatherings can sometimes turn into a burden or something you “have to do”. Alternate formal family dinners and mandatory birthday or holiday parties with something fun you all enjoy- a game night, movie night, soccer game or hike. Be willing to compromise and participate in new or different activities.
- Use technology to connect. Call. Text. Facetime. Comment on your sister’s photo of her daughter’s Halloween costume. Like a photo your brother posts of his latest vacation.
- Steer clear of politics and controversies. It’s okay for you and your siblings to have fundamental disagreements about politics or current events, but there’s no need to be disagreeable. Prioritize preserving relationships over being right or convincing your sibling they’re wrong. Be respectful and humble. Diffuse challenging situations with humor. Focus on what you and your siblings have in common.
- Let your siblings grow up. Your baby brother who was seven when you graduated from high school is now an adult, so treat him like one. Learn about his talents and interests. Talk with him as you do your peers.
Karlie works at a desk, is an extreme extrovert, loves to play volleyball and ski, and (still) dreams of being in the Olympics. Writing takes her to her happy place, and she's interested in ideas about improving relationships, productivity and connec