What are the long term effects of positive sibling relationships? According to Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, siblings are perhaps the only people you’ll ever know who are with you throughout your entire life. Your parents are there for the beginning and leave too soon, while your kids and spouse come along later, but your siblings are often there from the beginning to the end. Because of this, you have the opportunity for an intimacy and a familiarity that can’t possibly be available to you in any other relationship throughout your life.
It is for this reason that a strong sibling bond is so important. It is worth the effort that we put in as parents to help foster a healthy relationship among our children. We do this by teaching them to communicate and solve problems effectively with each other, by giving them opportunities to have fun together and enjoy each other’s company, and by trying to instill family values like love, loyalty, and respect. Our kids learn these things by watching and imitating us, and by practicing healthy relationships with others under our watchful eye.
In effect, what goes on in the playroom between siblings is like a long-term, total-immersion dress rehearsal for life. Kluger asserts that when you learn conflict-resolution skills in the playroom, you then practice them on the playground, and that in turn stays with you. If you have a combative sibling or a physically intimidating, older sibling, you learn a lot about how to deal with situations like that later in life. If you’re an older sibling and you have a younger sibling who needs mentoring or is afraid of the dark, you develop nurturing and empathic skills that you wouldn’t otherwise have. This comes down to our basic interpersonal software that our siblings play a critical role in programming in us. It is possible for only children to experience a similar type of relationship with cousins and close childhood friends. Parents can help by encouraging and supporting these relationships.
For more on this fascinating topic, check out Jeffrey Kluger’s The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us: