We want our kids to love and support one another, but shared family history may not be enough to keep them together, especially if their lives, priorities and values are dissimilar. Often sibling rivalry that lasts into adulthood gets in the way of real connection. While our immediate impulse may be to make peace among them, it may also be driving them further apart. Before you try, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you clinging to childhood roles and identities they’ve outgrown?
- Are you getting in the middle instead of letting them deal directly with each other?
- Are you triangulating by drawing one sib into your concerns, quarrels or problems with another?
Q. Our two sons have always been close, but they’ve had a falling-out. How can we make them sit down and work things out, or even just avoid taking sides when the quarrel has nothing to do with us?
A. While a mediator may be a good idea, it’s not a role you can play, since you can’t really be objective, and your well-meaning attempt to improve things may simply stimulate old sibling rivalries. It’s important not to take sides in their fight, no matter who’s right.
Q. My daughter complains that I’m not as loving to her husband or as generous to her children as I am to her sister’s spouse and family. It’s just like when she was a kid – she’s never satisfied. What can I do?
A.You may be seeing her in an old role that has nothing to do with what’s happening now – she might be right! Or she, rather than you, may be triangulating – trying to draw you into her quarrel with her sister. Refuse to play this role and step out of the middle.
Q. I’m closer to my eldest child than my others, who always went through her to get what they wanted, so I’ve often discussed my problems with them with her. Now she seems to be drawing away from me, and while her relationship with her sisters and brothers is better, I feel hurt and excluded. What’s going on here?
A. Are you still seeing her as the quasi-parent, the responsible one, the way you did when she was younger? She’s establishing boundaries with you she’ll need in order to bond more closely with her siblings and build a more equal relationship with them. When she has, she’ll feel more comfortable about being close to you again.