Keeping in Touch With Loved Ones

10 Ways to Be Closer to Your Siblings

Dealings with your sister or brother can be a little complicated. A family-relationship expert explains how to tighten your bond.

By Jane Isay
Illustration of girl getting spashed by her brother in the poolBrian Rea


4. Mind your manners. Would you ever ask a friend, “Have you brushed your teeth this week?” No? Then don’t speak to your brother like that. You don’t have to be formal with siblings, but a petty comment still rankles, no matter how close you are to them. The brothers and sisters whom I spoke to say digs about weight, grammar usage, and your sib’s choice of friends are especially off-limits.

5. Fight typecasting. Growing up, you may have been pegged by your family with a certain role: the responsible one, the loose cannon, the baby. And no matter how much you blossom as an adult, this role sticks. While many men and women credit happy relationships with their immediate kin to this immutability—the comfort of knowing what’s expected of them—others find it stifling. If you’re in that latter group (and think your sibs may be as well), try this: At the next family dinner, tout the fact that your brother, the brain, climbed Mount Rainier or that your sister, the jock, is writing a book. By acknowledging the way that your siblings have evolved from their childhood roles, you implicitly give everyone the green light to see you differently as well—not just as the mercurial one who once threw a plate of peas at Nana Gladys.

6. B gr8 txt frnds. Occasional hours-long chats are nice, but you’re actually more likely to supercharge your bond by having frequent casual contact, many sibs say. Technology can help. Text messaging from a train platform, commenting on a Facebook update, and pinging on your BlackBerry make it really easy to be the thoughtful sister you are.

7. Quit being jealous of other people's sibling relationships. Maybe your best friend and her sister routinely send each other homemade cookies. Or your husband and his "Let’s have a group hug!" siblings make the Waltons look like the McCoys. When you witness others sharing tight ties with their brethren, it can be easy to devalue your own relationship—if, say, exchanging birthday cards constitutes meaningful contact between you and your sister. Remember, though, that there are different depths to each bond and that somewhere inside that group hug, someone is usually dropping an elbow.

 
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