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How to Handle Adult Sibling Conflict

by
author image Karen Kleinschmidt
Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.
How to Handle Adult Sibling Conflict
Take small steps to open up communication with your siblings. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

Sibling rivalry traces its roots back to early childhood when siblings compete with each other for their parents' love and attention. Although it is common to feel threatened by this competition in childhood, it often continues unresolved into adulthood, according to Elizabeth Bernstein, author of "Sibling Rivalry Grows Up." At the same time, sibling relationships are generally the longest lasting. Many factors, including genetics, familial patterns, birth order and gender can effect the outcome.

Halt Negative Rumination

How to Handle Adult Sibling Conflict
Make a plan to take action by addressing the issue. Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Avoid fueling your anger and frustration by putting a stop to thoughts regarding your sibling's negative traits or all the ways you perceive your sibling has wronged you. Rather, make a plan to take action by addressing the issue, suggests Jeanne Safer, a Manhattan-based psychologist and author of "Cain's Legacy: Liberating Siblings from a Lifetime of Rage, Shame, Secrecy and Regret" in a Wall Street Journal article. Consider how others might see your sibling. Consider the views of her co-workers, spouse or children. Decide what you enjoy about your sibling and the reasons you might consider repairing your relationship.

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Open the Door

How to Handle Adult Sibling Conflict
Begin by inviting your sibling to a casual barbecue in your backyard or out to dinner for a relaxing evening. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Due to the history you have shared during childhood, siblings tend to know you deeper than anyone else; this can help you to better understand yourself as an adult, according to Psychology Today. Take the first step to resolve your conflict. For example, begin by inviting your sibling to a casual barbecue in your backyard or out to dinner for a relaxing evening. This is a chance to offer peace and new beginnings. While you may desire to talk, analyze and resolve the issue, your sibling may be uncomfortable or unable to do so, according to Safer, so it can be helpful to be patient and to approach your sibling in a way he feels comfortable communicating.

Sibling POV

How to Handle Adult Sibling Conflict
Be willing to hear your sibling's point of view and listen to her without judging. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Consider the fact that you may have misunderstood your sibling's intentions. If needed, talk to your spouse or friend to gain additional perspective regarding the issue, according to Ruth Peters, clinical psychologist and "Today" contributor. Be willing to hear your sibling's point of view and listen to her without judging. In addition, look for your part in the problem. For example, if your sibling feels left out year after year because you ask your parents to dinner on both Mother's Day and Father's Day without considering her, offer suggestions to help her feel included. Perhaps you can do dinner together or switch off on the holidays. Be willing to compromise, negotiate and solve the problem.

Be Realistic

How to Handle Adult Sibling Conflict
Keep the peace by sending cards, attending family gatherings and being polite. Photo Credit Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Perhaps you wouldn't desire a relationship at all if this person wasn't related to you. Judy Dunn, a professor of human development at Penn State University, recognizes that siblings with distinct personality differences can provoke, frustrate and agitate you to the point that you desire little to no contact with them. In these cases, sibling conflict has more to do with the inability to click with your sibling rather than residual competition from childhood. Keep the peace by sending cards, attending family gatherings and being polite. Avoid talking about your sibling with other family members. Enjoy the connection on neutral terms.

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