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Tackling Sibling Rivalry

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Are you all grown up and still competing with your siblings? You’re not alone!

Sibling rivalries go all the way back to Cain and Abel, and we all know how that ended.

But – even if you’ve been feuding for years, it is possible to make peace.

Sibling rivalries can start young, and fester for a lifetime. Psychologist Wendy Dickinson of Grow Counseling says many of us start competing for our parents' attention before we are even aware of what we're doing. Dickinson explains, “Because it happens as early as a year old, so it's likely that the siblings don't even have any recollection of how it developed, or when they first kind of felt pitted against each other."

Dickinson believes competition between brothers and sisters is a natural part of growing up and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

She says, “I think in some ways, sibling rivalry can be helpful, because you kind of push each other to be the best version of yourself that you can be. So maybe the rivalry pushed you in athletics, or it pushes you in academics in some way."

The problem? It’s easy to get stuck in roles - like Mom's favorite, or the smart one, or the successful child And if siblings don’t address the slights and hurt feelings, childhood rivalries can spill over into adulthood, pitting grownup children against each other.

Dickinson says, "I think it becomes problematic where it crossed into an area where someone's sense of value is hinged on how much attention they get, and whether they win the competition. That's when it really starts to become an issue for someone."

Dickinson believes it's possible for even the most fierce family rivals to make peace and move on. But you have to want to fix the problem. And you may have to make the first move. As siblings, you can't change the past, but you can choose to let it go, to stop trying to one-up each other. Dickinson says hear your sibling out, and try not to be defensive. And validate the other person’s feelings, even if you remember things different. Remember, she says, you’re all on the same team.

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