WE ARE FAMILY – COMBATING SIBLING RIVALRY

He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.

Actually, he is quite heavy because he’s got quite a lot of muscle mass. Trust me, I’ve been rugby tackled to the ground by him many a time. Nonetheless, he is quite handy to have around in dangerous situations. He’s also wonderful to have as a brother in general, and I’m sure most of you reading this can say the same about your siblings.

However, as much as we adore them, there are times when the dynamics of siblinghood prove to be problematic. An unspoken rivalry can creep up on the family unit, and sometimes, for the sake of that unity, children tend to suppress their true feelings about the situation, and simply suffer in silence. The agonising result of this may manifest later on in years, scarring ties, marring bonds and breaking hearts. It can also make family gatherings incredibly awkward.

It starts off on quite an idyllic note. You’re a tiny tot, living the dream, playing with worms in the sand box. One fine day, your mother gently whispers that you’re going to have a baby brother or sister. You think nothing of it at first and just carry on burying worms. Yet, as time goes by, mummy’s belly starts to take up a lot more space than it used to. Mummy’s tummy then suddenly deflates and Baby Sibling finally arrives. It is then that you are reminded of what mummy had foreseen a while back. Baby Sibling’s presence is incongruous to the status quo of your kingdom. It disturbs the time of slumber with its wails, and unnerving odours emerge from its person every so often. The tension emanating from mummy is interfering with your karma, and daddy no longer has time to play airplane with you. The only good that has come of this calamity is that you no longer have to endure Auntie Mavis’ sloppy kisses, thanks to Baby’s magnetic force of cuteness. Nonetheless, it only dawns on you now that, had you considered earlier the gravity of what is to come, you would have mentally prepared yourself for the emotional trauma of no longer being the sole fulcrum of your dynasty. Instead, you just sat in the sand, playing with worms.

 

In reality though, there isn’t much that children can do about sibling rivalry. When a newcomer arrives, they just have to learn to adapt to the new presence, and on the whole, they manage to survive and get along just fine. However, as much as the children are making an effort to build bridges with their new playmate, so too must adults prepare an environment where any kind of rivalry is stifled as much as possible. This competition among the kids is a natural phenomenon, because of their differing characters and talents. Yet, this does not mean that it should be an unsolvable given in family life. We must be aware of the beast that is sibling rivalry, and it must be tamed before it runs amok with our family unit. Children must be safeguarded to avoid the breeding of bitterness or jealousy when they become adults.

Sibling rivalry is a poison often injected by subtle remarks made by outside parties. You know, those unintentional yet snide observations made by the neighbours that your sister is the pretty one. Or the yearly party thrown for your brother’s straight A’s, which is nicely juxtaposed by your mother’s constant reminder not to tell any of the guests that you got a lower grade than he did in Math. Why can’t you be organised like your brother? Why can’t you have slimmer legs like your sister? How is your brother making more money than you? Does any of this sound heart-wrenchingly familiar to you? You’re not the only one. Unless we are careful with what we say in front of or to our kids, one of the siblings may go so far as to use these negative comparisons to his/her own advantage when faced with a familial conflict. Why? Because children are attune to everything that is said or goes on. The terrifying thing is that this reiteration can come back to haunt them in later years. So, pause for a second before you chide one sibling for not being of the same mould as his/her other.

Let us not be the cause of family feuds. Let us raise our children in surroundings where they are celebrated for being unique individuals, and not push them into the shadow of one another. Let us be the parents who strengthen the bond between brothers. There may be perks to being an only child, but let us raise men and women who feel lucky for having grown up with a sibling by their side.