Role of a Sibling
There is no topic that can spark a sea of emotions as much as a discussion on growing up with siblings. Whether you are the eldest, the youngest or the one strung in the middle, everyone has a number of stories to tell. The younger ones tell extensive tales of envying the older ones their ability to do everything better and faster than them while the older ones recall how they felt that the parent’s attention was divided with the heavier tilt towards the younger one. However, probe a little beneath the surface and you discover how siblings actually prove to be invaluable stress busters through the stresses and strains of life.
There is more than shared ancestry that makes having a sibling so rewarding. There is no dearth of literature discussing the important role played by parents during the formative years of a child but very little material is available on the equally important impact of a sibling on the social, emotional and overall development of a person. A sibling influences us in more ways than we know, consciously or unconsciously. Younger siblings consciously try to copy the mannerisms and habits of older kids simply because they think they are the cool ones. Interactions with older siblings, promotes the young child’s cognitive development as well as his understanding of other people’s emotions and perspectives. Even older kids are not immune from influences from their younger siblings. Used to being the only child and the center of attention, older kids learn to share space with another being. Many older siblings turn leaders simply because they are unconsciously thrust into that role by their younger siblings who look up to them and follow them unquestioningly.
A sibling can teach another more life skills than a class ever could. Fighting over who gets control over the remote or who gets to eat the last bar of chocolate can foster a spirit of kinship that extends well beyond the growing up years. The many sibling spats help kids learn to negotiate and compromise; and to accept the negative emotions that crop up in life. Along the way, unwittingly, you also become fellow comrades in arms as you go through the phases of rebellion that makes you consciously distance yourself from your parents as you try to establish identity. Siblings thus become closest confidantes and unconsciously help shape a lot of the beliefs that become the founding stone of adult life.
As people sharing the same background, siblings are better able to relate to each other’s feelings and can help in putting things in perspective when one of them is feeling too down or low to see things as they are. That there is someone else that empathizes with you and is ready to support you when the chips are down is in itself a very energizing feeling.
All this is not to wish away aspects such as sibling rivalry, which in cases has continued well into adulthood with disastrous consequences. However, the benefits of having a sibling far outweigh its negative aspects.
As someone has rightly said, “If parents are the fixed stars in the child’s universe, siblings are the dazzling, sometimes scorching comets whizzing nearby.”