13 Things You Need to Say to Your Sibling Today
It's the perfect moment to share these kind words and thoughtful questions with your sibling.
As much time as you've spent with your siblings and as well as you know them, there are probably a lot of important things that are left unsaid. Especially during difficult times, when we have to stop and reassess what's truly important in our lives, it's the perfect moment to consider the sort of kind words and worthwhile conversations that can help strengthen your relationship, but can be easily overlooked in the day-to-day. Here are 13 things you should tell your sibling, according to experts.
"I really like this about you."
Your siblings know that you care about them and love them, but when was the last time you actually told them what specifically you think is great about them? Many people may not take the time to consider what it is they like about their brothers or sisters, but now's a good time to remedy that.
"What are some things you have always admired about your siblings? Her great style? Being able to keep a secret?" asks psychiatrist Vinay Saranga, MD, founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatry. "Whatever it is, let them know about it. When we are faced with tough times, scary events, and life-or-death scenarios, it reminds us how precious life is. Make sure you let people know about them before it's too late."
"I enjoy doing this with you."
Similar to talking about what you like about your siblings, telling them what you like to do with them—and making plans to do those things—is also important. We all tend to get busy with our own lives, so it's easy to deprioritize time with those who are closest to you. Even if you can't physically be in the same place, discussing what it is you like to do with them can help strengthen the relationship.
"Tell your sibling things you enjoy doing with him, and if possible do them," says licensed marriage and family therapist Sofia Robirosa, author of The Business Of Marriage. "This is great information that can make your sibling feel special and also feedback on what to continue to do together."
"That thing you do inspires me."
You should also tell your siblings how their behavior and character has a positive impact on you. "Have there been times when you were perhaps feeling down and something your sibling said or did helped lift you up?" asks Saranga. "Has your sibling accomplished something significant in his or her life that you secretly admire? Let them know how much this has inspired you, and the actions it caused you to take."
More than likely, they have no idea that something they did had a direct, positive impact on your life. Letting them know will not only give them a burst of happiness, but may in turn inspire them to do more positive things in their life—and it will also strengthen your relationship in the process.
"I really appreciate you."
One of the silver linings of difficult and disruptive times is that it brings into focus what really matters in life, giving you a greater sense of gratitude for the things and people you might otherwise just take for granted, including your siblings. These difficult times are the perfect opportunity to tell your siblings how much you appreciate them.
"Now is a time when we need to hold our family and friends closer to us," says Saranga. "Expressing our appreciation to our siblings puts us in a state of gratitude, which will help us get through these uncertain and chaotic times with more ease. Be specific and explain why you appreciate them and recount past experiences that come to mind."
"I forgive you."
Of course, few sibling relationships are without their tensions or disagreements, sometimes even deep disputes. You may have moved past them but left things unsaid, still feeling a sense that you were wronged. Now may be the time to address them, and to express forgiveness.
"There is no stronger sign of love than the ability to forgive," says Saranga. "Address a specific event that caused tension with your sibling because you feel they did you wrong, and let them know it is forgotten about, and you want to move forward. This will boost your spirit and well-being, as well as your sibling's."
"You can trust me."
Even if we think we know everything about our siblings, there are probably things they have not told you, either about their lives, their experiences growing up, or just their outlook on the world. As best you can, you should give them the sense that they can share anything with you, even potentially hurtful secrets, and that you will respect their confidence.
"Remember, personal, revealing conversations leave people feeling vulnerable, and it might take some time to get to the deep stuff," says Terry Connell, a wellness expert and acupuncturist who works with families. "If the idea of getting closer seems like a good one, but brings up a sense of slight fear or anxiety, keep it light to start."
"This is what I'm hoping to do with my life."
When we catch up with siblings, we might talk about what's been going on the last few days with work or a new movie we just saw, but big-picture goals in our life likely remain off the table. Take the time to share your long-term life aims—with work, your relationship, and other aspects of your life—with your siblings and ask them to share theirs.
"Share what you're working on, your personal goals, and ask them what are theirs," says Robirosa. "Doing this promotes support for one another and shows that you care."
"How can I help?"
You probably know that your brothers and sisters are there for you, and they know you are there for them. But sometimes it helps to remind them, especially during difficult times—whether it's offering them emotional help of listening to their concerns or physically lending a hand with a project.
"If there is anything your sibling needs or you need, talk about it and do it, if [it's] within reason," says Robirosa. "This can help create a feeling of being able to count on one another."
"How are you doing really?"
You might be thinking, "Of course, that's the first question I ask anyone." But rather than just putting the question to them in the mechanical way you do with most people, really ask them this question, looking for a genuine response.
"This helps promote open dialogue about our feelings and creates a sense of support during these difficult times," says Robirosa. "When we share our stressors with somebody we care about, it helps promote a feeling of emotional safety."
"Remember that time when…"
Every family has their inside jokes and family mythology that pop into any conversation when everyone gets together. But before you speak to your sibling next, take some time to try and remember a positive or funny memory that you haven't talked about in a while or at all, but that has left an impression on you.
"These can be positive memories of you and your sibling and your family as a whole," says Reema Beri, PhD, a psychologist at Great Lakes Psychology Group. "This is a great opportunity to take time and reflect on all of the enjoyable memories you have created as siblings and enjoyed as a family."
"Let's put a family vacation on the calendar."
Everyone has busy lives, especially as you get older and your family grows. But there is little that strengthens your connection to your siblings more than going to the effort to spend time with them and their family. Sure, this can mean logistical challenges of coordinating dates and finding an outing that everyone can agree on, but simply making the effort to see them—for something fun—will mean a lot and allow you to all create new, joyful memories with the people who know you best.
"What should we do about mom and dad?"
Of all the things you have in common with your siblings, your parents are probably the most important. And while you might share in the latest updates about parents—both good and bad—especially as they get older, it's important to discuss your parents and their needs.
"In times of crisis, honesty and transparency can be a useful tool. Right now, many people are feeling that life is short and we should make our moments count," says Rachel McCrickard, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder and CEO of Motivo virtual clinic. She says this includes frank conversations about your parents, saying such things as, "I want to be sure we plan ahead for mom and dad's end-of-life care. Can we set aside some time for a conversation about this?"
"Would it help if I talked to mom and dad?"
It may be easier for one sibling more than another to speak to your parents about difficult topics or to ask them to do something. Those who have an easier time making a request of their parents should offer to do so when it would make their brother's or sister's life a little bit easier.