If someone asks me who has been my best pal since childhood, I would say it is my sister! Even though in my teenage years I was closer to my mum and shared almost every detail with her, my sister is someone who has always been there to laugh, fight and cry with me. She always lent a patient ear to my ramblings about the many turns of my life and had sound, sensible advice for me. My brother has also been a very important part of my life and a great pillar of strength for me, and I cannot dream of discussing certain aspects of my life with anyone but my brother.
Sharing your feelings with siblings is often an easier task given the common upbringing, background and family values. Friends, though vital in a person’s life, cannot serve as a sounding board for many a problem. Domestic violence, molestation or any kind of exploitation that takes place inside ones home are very difficult topics to open up about to people who are not in the same boat as you are. There would always be a fear of being judged or looked down upon by others. However a sibling, having more or less a similar vantage point as yours on such issues would be able to understand you better and offer a fresh perspective or a realistic solution.
The camaraderie of a sibling relationship may immensely benefit your life in the later stage. With them you share memories and a sense of family identity. Siblings have an invisible power that can have a tremendous effect on your personality. Only your sibling has actually seen the crazy things you did on your fifth birthday (and knows that you are probably still capable of doing them all over as an adult!) or smiles at how your grandmother used to enthrall the family with her acting skills while watching a comic movie. These priceless memories are the ones we cherish more as we age and these can not be exchanged for anything in the world.
As with any lasting and important relationship, ones relationship with a sibling should be based on trust. However, given the fact that a strong foundation is crucial for the relationship, it also equally important not to take the relationship for granted due to this. Taking the time out of a busy schedule to connect with your siblings, invest in their lives, and show them that you care with small words and gestures, helps nurture the relationship and results in higher emotional and happiness quotient. A warm, trusting relationship with your brothers and sisters can be an effective buffer against stressful and traumatic events. A person who has loving siblings as part of his/her life has a more complete sense of belonging and is less prone to depression than a person who doesn’t have a cordial, functioning relationship with his/her brother or sister.
In the book ‘Strengthening Aging Families: Diversity in Practice and Policy’, the authors emphasize the importance of sibling relationship on the well being of a person particularly during old age and during a crisis. They say sharing common memories and lifetime worth of stories, having brothers and sisters can significantly benefit us in our old age.
A study conducted by American Journal of Psychiatry in 2007 concludes that men who had poor relationships with their siblings or any of the siblings before the age of 20 were more prone to depression by the age of 50 than men who had good relations with any of their sibling.
Parents have a very important role to play in shaping the relationship between siblings. They should first and foremost ensure that neither they nor anyone else in the extended family show any signs of favoritism of any kind towards any child. This is said to be the main cause of rivalry that can take an ugly turn in adulthood. Parents should also not intervene in every small conflict that children have, but instead should let the siblings work out their issues on their own as far as possible. Moreover, children learn from parents so parents should try to live by example and show them a live example of adorable, fun-filled and loving sibling relationship.
Siblings are the friends that God blesses us with. They are family, and unlike friends, we don’t choose them. We don’t have to impress them. We don’t need to put up our defenses around them. We don’t really need to pretend to be someone else around them, for in spite of everything that we have acquired over time, they have always known the bare bones, basic version of us. Everything that has shaped and molded our childhood, has shaped and molded theirs too. We grow up with them and in those initial years, despite all those numerous squabbles - the childish jealously, competing for everything from fancy clothes to who gets the window seat in the car, vying for a parent’s attention, we learn to accept their quirks and idiosyncrasies, we learn to accept and love them the way they are.
We don’t choose our siblings, but we can definitely choose the way we want our relationships with them. For a cheerful childhood, balanced adulthood and secured aging, it is important to nourish interactions with siblings as it is the longest and the most permanent relationship a person may have