While many people recognize our siblings as rivals in childhood and as the only people still forced to suffer the indignity of wearing matching sweaters at the holidays as adults, their effect on our lives is even more pronounced than most of us realize—and more common: in fact, more than 80 percent of Americans grew up in a home with one or more other children
“Positive and close sibling relationships can be a wonderful thing and generate a feeling of connection. If they’re more conflictual, this can make future intimate relationships with peers or friends difficult because a negative type of template is already laid down,” says Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW, author of The Food and Feelings Workbook.
From encouraging us when we’re taking our first steps to influencing our relationships as adults, the myriad ways our sibling relationships shape our lives might even shock the closest sibling pairs. And for more family secrets, discover the 30 Things Only Moms With Daughters Know.
They Set the Stage for Future Friendships
For most people, particularly younger siblings, our brothers and sisters serve as the people with whom we have our first peer interactions. And it’s those early friendships with our siblings that tend to set the stage for ones we have later in life. And for more great family-building advice, discover The 100 Best Places to Raise a Family.
They Help Us Realize We’re Not Always the Center of Attention
While only children often get to enjoy being the sole apple of their parents’ eyes, siblings help take some of the focus off of us, for better or for worse. When we’re very young, this often means sharing the attention we crave from our family members with someone, and sometimes feeling resentful in the process. However, as we enter adolescence and adulthood, many of us begin to view that shared spotlight as a good thing, taking some of the focus off our own actions (meaning we can get away with more). And when you want to move on from those childhood grudges, start with the 40 Things to Let Go of In Your 40s.
They Help Us Learn to Nurture
Although sibling relationships are often contentious in the early years, they also teach us much of what we learn about nurturing over the course of our lives. Even when sibling rivalry rears its ugly head, most siblings are still willing to kiss their little brother or sister’s skinned knee, or are grateful to have a shoulder to cry on when the going gets tough.
And even if older children occasionally feel overly responsible for the well-being of their younger siblings, this may actually be a good thing in the long run. “Sometimes, if we’re the parentified child, we end up taking care of our siblings. This can lead to personality strengths and positive feelings about self,” says Koenig.
They Make it Easier to Meet the Opposite Sex
Want to get comfortable around members of the opposite sex? Having a sibling might just make that easier. In fact, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reveals that having an older sibling of the opposite sex significantly increased subjects’ confidence when talking to new members of the opposite sex, as well. And when you’re looking to find that special someone, make sure you skip ignore these 40 Relationship Tips That Are Actually Terrible.
They Shape Our Personalities
Our personalities aren’t formed in a vacuum. In fact, for many people with siblings, the characteristics that end up defining our personalities directly result from the example set by our brothers and sisters. For more insight into your own personality, discover Why You’re a Dog Person or Cat Person.
They Help Us Learn to Take a Joke
Ask anyone with a sibling and they’ll tell you: there’s nobody who can crack you up like your brother or sister. The closeness of sibling bonds is a veritable fount of inside jokes, and all those early years of loving teasing is undeniably helpful when it comes to developing a thicker skin later in life. For more reasons to laugh, check out the 75 Jokes That Are So Bad They’re Actually Funny.
They Teach Us How to Share
Kids with siblings get an early lesson in what it means to share, right in the privacy of their own home. Whether that means taking turns with toys or having to vie for the last bite of ice cream, having siblings provides a constant lesson on compromise.
They Help Us Learn to Stand Up For Ourselves
Our assertive tendencies don’t take shape overnight. In fact, for many of us, they’re the direct result of knowing that a sibling has our back and will stand up for us when the going gets tough. And when you want to be more assertive, start with the 20 Daily Confidence Boosters for Getting Ahead at Work.
They’re Our Biggest Cheerleaders
For many people, having a sibling means having someone in your corner at all time, no matter what. In many cases, even in the case of contentious relationships, our siblings remain our biggest cheerleaders, eager to encourage us and pick us up when we’re down. And when you want to improve your own self-esteem, start with these 70 Genius Tricks to Boost Your Confidence.
They Make Us Less Likely to Divorce
Surprising as it may seem, your siblings may actually predict the likelihood that your adult romantic relationships stand the test of time. According to research published in the Journal of Family Issues, each sibling a married person has reduces their risk of divorce by three percent. And when you want to improve your relationship, start with the 50 Best Marriage Tips of All Time.
They Connect Us to Our Pasts
While your close childhood friends may remember the wood paneling in your rec room or that asymmetrical haircut you got in third grade, only our siblings remember those intimate details about our families that we might otherwise forget. Want the dirt on that week your dad owned a motorcycle? Ask your brother or sister.
They Teach Us Morality
Although children tend to ignore a large portion of their parents’ advice, siblings often serve as the voice of reason, particularly when morality is concerned. Siblings are the first people who not only teach us the difference between right and wrong, but show us with their own examples. And if you want to be more moral as an adult, start with the 20 Easy Ways to Be Less Mean.
They Give Us a Dose of Healthy Competition
Having a sibling means having a friendly source of competition at the ready. While this may not always seem like a positive thing, having a little healthy competition at home can actually encourage us to aim higher than we would without them.
They Help Us Learn to Compromise
Compromise is the name of the game when it comes to healthy sibling relationships. Whether you’re fighting over which restaurant the whole family goes to for a special occasion dinner or trying to figure out which one of you gets to take the car on a Friday night, having a sibling means polishing those compromise skills on a regular basis.
They’re Our Closest Friends As Adults
Long after the years of fighting over toys and your parents’ attention have passed, our siblings take on new roles: as our best friends. In fact, one study reveals that, among a group of 7,730 adults, nearly a third would call their siblings first in case of an emergency. And after all those years growing, learning, and changing together, who better to call your BFF in adulthood than your brother or sister? And when you want to expand your social circle, This Is the Best Way to Make New Friends.
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