The relationship between siblings can be as complicated as it is enduring. Even the closest, most treasured relationships have some bumps in the road as each sibling goes through different life stages and they grow to figure out their own lives. But no matter what, these relationships have an undeniable impact. And, good or bad, one thing sibling relationships may affect is bullying.
At some point, the majority of siblings have had feelings of discouragement and disappointment with each other. Many of us can recall a fight or argument from the past. No matter how it affected us at the time, it may have a major impact on how we get along with others today. Sibling interaction teaches us how to communicate and relate to others through disagreements and compromise. These life skills are incredibly beneficial as we grow and learn to deal with trouble in the classroom or on the playground and later, at work and in our intimate relationships, too. But they do more than teach us. They help us develop important parts of our psyche.
Kids who grow up with sibling relationships generally learn that the world doesn't revolve around them. This might make them more selfless. Through the years of coping as a sibling, many of us learn sharing, how to take turns and how to sometimes put the needs of another before our own.
Empathy, or the ability to place yourself into someone else’s situation, is a critical prerequisite to limiting bullying or hurting others. It also allows for the extension of sympathy and comfort. Siblings see one another's struggles in a way that most others never will, and this can promote the "step into another's shoes" mindset that's so important to becoming an empathetic person.
Sibling relationships can also teach useful coping skills. If there was a strong, supportive bond between siblings growing up, it generally helps both siblings to form good relationships with others moving forward.
On the other hand, if there was an unhealthy sibling relationship, there may be long-term consequences. Lingering feelings of coercion and manipulation may lead to depression and unhealthy friendships. Seeking professional help from a qualified therapist may help bring childhood issues to light and focus on healing and recovery.
Building solid sibling relationships starts young. Parents can teach kids how to support and encourage one another through modeling and direct instruction. They should set clear lines, expectations and boundaries against bullying, aggression and name-calling as unacceptable behavior, praising and encouraging supportive, empathetic interactions instead. Good sibling relationships like all relationships, don't happen by accident and parents can play a central role in helping siblings to connect and bond with the right encouragement and coaching from their earliest days together.
No matter what stage of life we’re in, we can model kindness and nurturing to each other and increase our empathy but siblings offer a special kind of bond that can be one of the best in life. And best of all, when they're good, they provide incredible benefits. Maybe it's time to give your sibling a call?
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