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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante   

Sibling love

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

Whether you are eight years old or 80 years old, having at least one brother or sister means that you share unique memories about your childhood with someone else on this earth. Your sibling also knew the household that you grew up in, which includes favourite foods, the layout of all the furniture, and what special occasions were like. On April 10th, several countries including Canada, the United States and the Philippines celebrate Siblings Day.

Although not everyone has an easy relationship with their brother or sister, most people agree that there are benefits to growing up with a sibling. I myself grew up as the oldest child with one brother and two sisters. It was never boring in our house! Besides having shared memories and an understanding of relationships within the family, I always had a companion and rarely felt lonely.

Most families can agree that along with the disagreements and hurt feelings, there were many times of endless laughter, teasing, and the freedom of being silly and young. The relationship between siblings is unique and often enriches our lives in countless ways, even as adults. Here are some of the benefits to having siblings, which often led to shaping character, building resilience, and fine-tuning social skills from a young age:

1. Lifelong companionship

One of the most remarkable gifts of having siblings is the companionship that lasts a lifetime. From the tender moments of playing together as kids to the support during the challenges of adulthood, siblings stand as constants in each other’s lives. They are often the longest relationships that we will ever have. Siblings are the confidants who understand the intricacies of family dynamics and share a history that no one else can replicate. I will often sit at the dinner table with my siblings, and it is so easy to start a story with, “Do you remember the time when…?”

2. Lessons in conflict resolution

Growing up with siblings offers invaluable lessons in conflict resolution and negotiation. You have no choice but to learn how to get along and settle disagreements! As a mother, I will often sit back and watch as my three sons work to settle a difference of opinion. Sometimes, it takes a while before things settle down (along with hurt feelings), but ultimately they get to some sort of conclusion together. The hope is that this will lead to healthy conflict resolution skills that will serve them well in their own future family, friend, and workplace relationships.

Through the give and take of sibling interactions, individuals develop empathy, patience, and the ability to see things from different perspectives.

3. Emotional support and understanding

In times of joy and sorrow, siblings serve as pillars of emotional support and understanding. Growing up, it was a gift to be able to watch my parents lean on their own siblings for support and help them as well.

Good sibling relationships will result in sharing of successes, but also offering solace during times of disappointment or loss. The bond forged through shared experiences creates a safe space where individuals can express their vulnerabilities without fear of judgment. Whether offering a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or words of encouragement, siblings play a crucial role in bolstering each other’s emotional well-being and resilience.

4. Building social skills

Siblings serve as the first social network for many individuals, providing opportunities for social interaction, cooperation, and conflict resolution from an early age. Through play and shared activities, siblings learn important social skills such as cooperation, negotiation, and teamwork. I’m sure that we all have witnessed two little children argue over a toy or a parent’s attention. Sometimes there is yelling and tears, but eventually kids learn to take turns and share. It’s great practice for future disagreements later in life!

5. Fostering healthy competition

I remember growing up with another family in the neighbourhood where two of the siblings were very competitive with each other in sports. A game of street hockey could easily end up in a yelling or pushing match! Sibling rivalry can be a powerful motivator for personal growth and achievement. Whether vying for academic success, athletic prowess, or creative endeavours, siblings often push each other to excel and reach their full potential.

If it is a healthy and supportive environment, competition with siblings can foster resilience, determination, and a drive for continuous improvement. Rather than fostering resentment, healthy sibling competition cultivates a spirit of mutual respect and admiration, celebrating each other’s accomplishments while striving to reach new heights.

6. Shared memories and traditions

From family holidays to everyday adventures, siblings share a treasure trove of memories and traditions that bind them together. I’ve watched as groups of siblings enjoy the retelling of a family vacation or funny trip to the grocery store. These shared experiences form the fabric of family identity, creating a sense of continuity and belonging across generations. How special it is to feel that you belong somewhere! Stories have a way of uniting us, and siblings can forge a legacy that strengthens family bonds and provides a source of comfort throughout life.

“Siblings are like branches of a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.” – Unknown

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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