Secrets of Sibling Success

This post was originally published on wakingupjess@wordpress.com on May 27, 2017.  

I often get comments about how “cute” my relationship with my brother is. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me they envy the closeness I have with John. While I can’t imagine anything less than a best-friend relationship with him, I’ve come to realize that it’s actually pretty rare to have this kind of bond with a sibling (especially a brother/sister relationship). Our small advantage is that we’re the only two kids in our family. So, we only have each other. But I believe that siblings in bigger families can also develop close relationships! Now, speaking from my personal experience and observations, I would like to offer 5 insights on how to have a healthy sibling bond.

  1. Communicate:

The key to any relationship (and nobody will be able to convince me otherwise) is communication. Talking. Using words: Some of the reasons this is so beneficial is because it establishes trust over time; it shows interest in the other person; and it allows you to get to know them on a deeper level. Also, I find that constantly talking with someone lessens the chance that there will be secrets kept. Secrets separate us from knowing someone fully. Secrets (or simply keeping certain topics “off limits”) make fore a more shallow relationship.

John and I don’t really keep secrets from each other. Nothing is off the table for discussion at any time. Of course, we have had to establish enough trust in one-another to feel safe being vulnerable and sharing our deepest struggles and thoughts. This has worked out really well for us over time, and I think it’s the #1 strategy that’s gotten us to where we are now. No topic is too big or too small to discuss.

When we were younger, we talked about who we had crushes on. I remember telling my girl friends, “Yeah, I already told John that I like ____,” and my friends would respond: “What?! I could never tell my big brother that!” So, for as long as I can remember, John and I must have been good communicators.

Now, as adults, we talk about God, heartache, life transitions, stresses, mental health, physical health, funny things, stupid things, and things that the other person doesn’t even care to know. We check in on each other often. We call each other one the phone to share the smallest or biggest news. Whether I’m driving to school in the morning or it’s 11 p.m, I always answer the phone when he calls.

The more we talk, the more we value and appreciate each other. The more we talk, the more opportunities there are to say “I love you!” The more we talk, the more we enjoy and help each another.

2. Be available 

I think that it’s really important to show your sibling that you’ll support them and be available for them at any time.

Yesterday I was struck by how this looks for me and John. Our family was walking around the Disney store at Downtown Disney. He and I separated from everyone else, and he suddenly started sharing his heart and burdens with me. It wasn’t the typical environment to have a heart-to-heart talk, but for me and John, it works. I instantly shifted my focus from Disney merchandise to him and his needs. I made sure to look him in the eyes and show him I was listening.

fullsizeoutput_caShowing your availability to your sibling might look a lot of ways. Maybe it means stopping what you’re doing and chatting with them for 5 minutes if they ask for it. Maybe it means keeping your bedroom door open. These are things that John and I have done. When he lived at home, we would stop into each other’s rooms and say “Hey, how’s it going?” Sometimes it lead into an important talk, and sometimes it was just a simple acknowledgment. Now that we live in different states, it means prioritizing each other on the phone. I always aim to respond to his texts quickly. He tries to answer his phone calls from me, even if he’s walking to a class and only has 3 minutes. And we always end our talks with: ” Talk to you later,” or “We can talk more about this when I have more time.” This shows care and implies that the conversation can keep on going.

3. Be Kind 

Part of why I actually like my brother is because he makes an effort to treat me well. Now, listen…He and I have had our share of conflicts. Sometimes we really suck at being kind and intentional. Because we’re family, we tend to get the worst of each other. We don’t always filter our emotions, attitudes, or words around one-another. However, we’ve never been ones to be hateful or purposely hurtful to each other.

In the movies, siblings are often pictured as being aloof toward each other, fighting, yelling, and name-calling. I hate this…I even see it in real life occasionally, and it breaks my heart. I can remember being at other friends’ houses and feeling insanely uncomfortable seeing my friends fight with their siblings. God gifts us with brothers and sisters, and we have the potential to make them be our best friends! So, why do we treat them like enemies? You can be the exception. Treat your sibling well, and they will hopefully do the same.

    4. Spend Quality Time

Invest in your sibling by spending intentional time with them. It won’t always feel fun. Sometimes you might sit down to do something with them, and you’ll feel like “Umm, why am I choosing to spend time with this person?” But, other times it can turn into such an unexpected blessing. By spending time alone with them, you get to know what makes them happy. You get to know their real self. And you show them you care.

Sometimes John and I go out to lunch, and we have great talks. Other times, we feel like we have nothing to talk about, so we enjoy the food and just applaud ourselves for trying to make it a good date. Sometimes we run errands together and enjoy some music or talk in the car. We also try to do what the other person enjoys. For example, last summer I watched movies that John likes (that I don’t necessarily like), and then he’d tell me why he likes them. Other times, John would take me to Starbucks and go shopping with me. These actions can be so meaningful and allow great memories to be made.

5. Love

This seems like a no-brainer. But are you actively showing your sibling that you love them? Love is an action. Your brother or sister needs to undoubtedly know and feel that you genuinely love them. Otherwise, there’s no chance your relationship can be at its full potential. They won’t come to you, talk to you, or enjoy you it they don’t feel that you love them unconditionally. You have to put effort into them to get the same effort back.

John has also told me the words “I love you” so many times throughout my life, that I will never doubt it. The knowledge of his love for me is drilled into my brain. Even when he’s being lame and doesn’t show his love, I still know he loves me.

If you feel like your relationship with your sibling is a lost cause, it’s not too late. If you don’t communicate well with them now, you can change that. Just be genuine. Don’t fake it. Tell them honestly that you’d like to improve your relationship, and go from there. Or, start the change by simply changing the way you act around them. Be loving.

John, I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m blessed to be your sister and best friend. Thank you for leading the way for me, sharing your heart with me, and helping me through life. Here’s to many more years of memories, hugs, laughter, and occasional trials. 

  • May 27, 2017

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