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How To Handle The Stress of Adult Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry Stress: You Can Handle It!

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Updated December 10, 2010

"Mom always did like you best!" Sound familiar? If you feel strained in your relationship with your family because your parents favor another sibling, or another sibling’s family, you may be surprised to find that you’re not alone. While most parents love their adult children, it’s surprisingly common for a parent to be closer to, or more supportive of, particular adult offspring over others, sparking sibling rivalry. It’s also common for people to feel that a sibling is or ‘has always been’ favored by a parent, even if this may not be recognized or acknowledged by the rest of the family. While it hurts to be the less favored ‘child’, it’s human nature for some people to be drawn together for various reasons, such as geographical proximity (your sister who lives closer to mom may understandably spend more time with her), shared personality features (your dad and brother think the same way, and thus understand each other more easily), or other factors within or beyond your control (perhaps you disagree with your parents more often than your siblings, and they resent it, consciously or unconsciously). Unfortunately, while this is human nature, it stings more when coming from a parent, as we think of our parents as people who are ‘supposed’ to love and support us unconditionally, and we may still see them as a little greater than human (a viewpoint left over from childhood).

Whatever the reason, if you find that one or more parents is favoring another sibling over you, either by having a closer relationship with your sister’s kids, bragging more about your brother’s accomplishments, paying more attention to your sister, or always taking your brother’s side in a disagreement, it can make for a stressful family gathering with raw feelings that can be easily hurt. Are you sick of the stress? Here are some ways to cope with sibling rivalry as an adult.

  • Don’t Take It Personally: Understand that your parent may not ‘love’ the other sibling more, they just feel closer or more invested in their lives, for whatever reason. They may not even be aware of it, and most likely not doing it to hurt your feelings.

  • Find Support Elsewhere in Your Life: Find supportive people in your life to provide the love, acceptance and approval you may not get from your parents as much as you’d like. While we may not be born into families of people who think like us and share our values, there are many people in the world that can provide the support that our family members may be unable to give.

  • Don’t Perpetuate Sibling Rivalry: Don’t compete with your siblings, and don’t blame them for being favored. Even if they’re going out of their way to remain the favorite, you can’t blame them for wanting their parent’s love and approval. Just accept that your relationship with your parents is yours, and try to keep it separate from sibling relationships.

  • Accept The Reality of the Situation: You’ll also feel better if you accept that you may not get as much support and approval from parents as you want, and that’s okay. If you don’t come at them from a place of need, you will actually have more personal power. It may be difficult to get into this frame of thought, but you’ll feel better after you do. Start by noticing all that you do get from them, and valuing that.

  • Invest In Your Own Family: Finally, if you have a committed relationship or family of your own, you can focus on providing that which you’d like to be getting from your family of origin. Focus on what you share with them, and on what you can provide to yourself in your own life, and you’ll be better able to accept familial quirks.

Related Video
Reducing Sibling Rivalry Conflict

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