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Family Dynamics

Healthy Sibling Relationships

Your sibling is an important person in your life.

For the past few weeks I have blogged about the detrimental effects of sibling bullying and sibling rivalry. I shared how sibling bullying can be just as, if not more, damaging as peer bullying. I also told the infamous story of the family feud between the Dassler brothers. Most of us don't know who the Dassler brothers were, but we know their legacy: Adidas and Puma.

Well, after exploring the detrimental effects of unhealthy sibling relationships, I'd like to turn the focus to more positive things... the importance of a healthy sibling relationship.

Did you know that research has shown that healthy sibling relationships can significantly benefit us later in life? Those with positive sibling relationships report higher life satisfaction and lower rates of depression later in life. Also in times of illness and traumatic events, siblings provide emotional, social, and psychological support to each other. Research shows that this support is common regardless of whether they live next to or far away from each other.

Three reasons why sibling relationships are very important:

1. Friendships may come and go, but you’re stuck with your sibling. This relationship is oftentimes one of the longest relationships in a person’s life.

2. Sibling relationships are authentic. Often siblings grow up in the same environment, share the same parents, and share common memories and similar experiences.

3. Our siblings are our family tree. They are a part of who we are and that relationship is a shared history that makes this unique relationship invaluable.

So while all of this may sound nice, how do you encourage and promote a healthy sibling relationship?

  • Start early. Parents encourage respect among siblings from the get-go. Don’t tolerate negative and harmful behaviors in the sibling relationship.
  • Provide your children with opportunities to share time and activities with you. Be wary of sibling rivalry and try to “nip it in the bud” if you see it beginning to occur.
  • Avoid showing favoritism. This is probably the most common reason for sibling resentment. Let your children know that you value each and every one of them by making one-on-one time for each child. Set aside some time to spend with your children. This will help them feel special and appreciated.
  • Set a time for family meetings (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly). Get together with all of the family to talk freely about grievances, issues, and celebrations. Give each person a chance to speak about what’s on his/her plate and then focus on finding solutions to the problems.
  • Encourage healthy communication between siblings. If they have disagreements allow them to work it out in a healthy way. Teach them how to negotiate and compromise (give and take) and how to look for win-win solutions. You may have to help them establish the rules and guide them at first, but once they are able to do it on their own, stand back.
  • As children get older, encourage them to maintain a relationship or to do things together. This can become more of a task when they are teens and have independent lives, but a little family time built into each month is a great way to encourage this relationship.

Most parents want nothing more than their children to get along. Siblings are essential to child development. The benefits of a healthy sibling relationship can last a lifetime. Throughout the years they can become supportive friends. Besides, other than your parents,’ who else knows you better than your brother or sister?


Conger K, Little W. Sibling relationships during the transition to adulthood. Child Development Perspectives. 2010;4:87–94.

Ohio State University

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