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Letting go of sibling rivalry

As children, some of our biggest arguments are with our brothers and sisters. But, when you grow up and leave home, the old wounds of sibling rivalry have a chance to heal as the relationship develops into something new and supportive.

Growing up with brothers or sisters can be a mixed bag. On one hand, you’ve got someone alongside you who understands your background and situation. On the other hand, it’s easy to fall into competition and rivalry, challenging for your parents’ attention and trying to prove yourselves worthy in the big wide world. 

The good news is that things often improve when you become adults and start spending less time under the same roof. As you get older, the competitiveness can ease off and you may find you become more of a support to each other. Moving apart can improve your relationship, and the distance may help you to see each other in a more positive light [1]. 

Go your own way 

Given how much we have in common with our siblings, it’s hard not to compete with them. They have grown up in the same place as us with the same advantages – if we don’t live up to their successes, it’s easy to feel like we’re failing. But, while it might be tempting to keep your eyes on the path your sibling is treading, it’s much healthier just to do your own thing [1]. 

This mind sound overly simplistic, but it’s an important lesson to keep in mind – aside from the obvious benefits of looking after yourself, focusing on your own interests and ambitions has been shown to minimise conflict with your siblings [1]. Let go of the temptation to follow in the footsteps of a brother or sister, and carve out your own path instead. Of course, this is easier when you’re no longer living under the same roof!

How siblings can support you

One of the best advantages of having siblings is that they can offer a safe place to open up about issues that you might not be able to discuss with anyone else. As you strike out on your own, issues like dating, sex, and friendships become more important and it can be hard to know where to turn when you have questions or when things get tough. 

Here’s where you may seek the wisdom of those who have walked these paths before you. It can be uncomfortable talking to parents about personal stuff like this, and siblings can represent the perfect sounding board. Older siblings in particular have made similar journeys into adulthood and may have advice or emotional tips to offer on these tricky topics [2]. 

Opening up and having these close chats can help you find solutions to the issue at hand, but it can also have the added benefits of improving your relationship with your sibling, developing your emotional maturity [2], and helping you feel better about your life in general [3].

Even if you don’t get to meet up face to face as often as you used to, these kinds of conversations can have the same benefits through text or social media [4]. So, if you have siblings and you’ve left home, drop them a line to check in – they might just be able to give you the emotional boost you need.



[1] Lindell, A., Campione-Barr, N., & Greer, K. (2014). Associations Between Adolescent Sibling Conflict and Relationship Quality During the Transition to College. Emerging Adulthood, 2(2), 79-91. 

[2] Campione-Barr, Nicole, Lindell, Anna K., Giron, Sonia E., Killoren, Sarah E., & Greer, Kelly Bassett. (2015). Domain Differentiated Disclosure to Mothers and Siblings and Associations with Sibling Relationship Quality and Youth Emotional Adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 51(9), 1278-1291.

[3] Hollifield, C., & Conger, K. (2015). The Role of Siblings and Psychological Needs in Predicting Life Satisfaction During Emerging Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 3(3), 143-15. 

[4] Killoren, S. E., Campione-Barr, N. C., Giron, S. M., Kline, G., Streit, C., & Youngblade, L. (2018). Content and correlates of sisters’ messages about dating and sexuality. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 1-22.

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