By the time you reach middle age, your relationships with your siblings probably have gone through plenty of ups and downs. Maybe you were hair-braiding besties growing up, but drifted apart once spouses, kids and 50-hour workweeks entered the picture. Or maybe you resented each other back then, but now that you’re living in separate households it’s easier to get along — if only those households weren’t 500 miles apart.
“Part of growing up is getting some separation from your siblings and parents, yet also trying to stay connected,” says Geoffrey Greif, coauthor of the book Adult Sibling Relationships. “It can be normal to have mixed feelings about your siblings, even if you love them.”
Still, your brothers and sisters can have a profound impact on your well-being — even now. Loads of research shows that people with strong social ties, which can include those with siblings, are happier and healthier. Studies have also shown that older people in particular are happier when they feel close to a brother or sister. And these relationships become even more crucial as parents (or siblings themselves) grow old or become sick.
“At some point you’re going to have to come together and work as a team,” says Francine Russo, author of They're Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents’ Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy. “If siblings can repair or restore relationships before the parents’ situation slips into crisis mode, it can help avoid a world of trouble.”
If the ties that bind you and yours have loosened in recent years — or if you never repaired them during a difficult period of caregiving — consider these five ways to tighten them up.