6 Ways To Have Better Relationships With Your Siblings

How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings: mother, father, and six children
From left to right: Jill, Kevin, Carole (Mom), JoAnn, Cole, Dori, Becky, Richard (Dad)

Sibling Relationships Are Important, Even As Adults!

There’s plenty of advice and guidance out there about navigating marriage, friendships, and parent/child relationships, but considerably less has been written about relationships between adult siblings. And that’s a shame, especially given that, for better or worse, sibling relationships are among the most significant bonds in our lives!

Positive sibling relationships can be a lifeline as you move through different seasons of life. Having the support of a brother or sister during major milestones and obstacles like marriage, divorce, having kids, the death of a parent, and mental health issues can be a huge source of comfort.

Related: The Hard Truth About Moving Your Parents Into Assisted Living

Studies on sibling relationships show that our feelings about our brothers and sisters can affect various aspects of our well-being, including mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, and life satisfaction. I can attest to that based on my personal experience with my 5 siblings over the last decade, as we’ve gone through phases being close, then distant, then close again.

Here are some of the lessons my siblings and I have learned (and are still learning) that have helped improve our relationships as adults.

6 Tips For Staying Close With Your Siblings As Adults

How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings - portrait photo of a mother and father with four children
I am the one with the very surprised look on my face! :-)

1. Make Time For Each Other

Just as you make time for your partner and close friends, do the same for your siblings. As you grow older and go through different walks of life, you may not be as available as you once were when you used to be just down the hall from each other, but you can find ways to stay in touch if you’re willing to work at it.

If you live in close proximity, plan an occasional lunch or dinner together. Even a simple text message or FaceTime call makes a difference! Find what works best for everyone so you can keep up with each others lives — my siblings and I have the most success with planning a lunch where we “meet in the middle” at a central(ish) location.

How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings - photo of five kids in their Sunday best
The shortest hair I’ve ever had in my life.

2. Accept Them For Who They Are

To have a good relationship with someone, including your siblings, you need to see and accept them for who they are — not who you think they are, nor who you want them to be. My siblings and I haven’t always been great at this, but I’m happy to say we’ve come a long way!

We don’t always agree with each other (to say the least!) or understand each other’s choices, but we’re there to support each other through thick and thin. Learning to accept each other as you are will enable you and your siblings to be there for each other when it matters most.

How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings - family photo including mom, dad, two sons and four daughters
My family – vintage 70’s!

3. Let Go Of Past Resentments

I can’t even imagine how many times one of my brothers or sisters has said or done something that hurt me and I never said anything about it. I’m sure it’s the same way for them! But as we’ve gotten older, we’ve learned how to be more vulnerable with each other and express our feelings honestly, and it’s helped us build trust and respect.

But it’s not enough to simply say what has gone unsaid — once you’ve brought those old resentments out into the open and had some honest conversations about them, it’s time to let them go.

My siblings and I have experienced our share of difficulties over the years, and even stopped speaking to each other at times. I’m glad that we’ve gotten to a point where we can put aside our wounded pride — and I believe that we’re all the stronger for it.

Related: Mending Fences With Friends And Family

How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings - a couple with their six adult children
I love this photo because we are all laughing! Which is what we do most of the time when we get together. :-)

4. Start A Sibling Group Chat

My siblings and I started a group text message with just the 6 of us several years ago, and I truly believe it’s done great things for our collective relationship! It’s not always super active, and often amounts to little more than the occasional photo or birthday greetings, but other times it’s blowing up with goofy GIFs, merciless teasing, and memories of the “good old days”.

But most importantly, it gives us a way to be there for each other when one of us is going through a hard time. If you don’t have a group chat with just you and all your siblings, I suggest giving it a try!

The Warners Weigh In On Sibling Relationships

  • As I was writing this post, I asked my siblings to share any thoughts or feelings they had on the subject of sibling relationships. In classic Warner fashion, some responded and some didn’t, but I appreciated what my older brother Kevin had to say:
  • “My siblings and I all share the same sense of humor and have the best times talking & laughing together even though we were separated many years ago as we each started our own families. We still want and need to communicate. Even though most of what we share is in a group text, it still works. (Thank goodness for technology as we live in 3 different states.) We all have a bond that comes from wonderful childhoods given to us by the best parents any kids could have. And we certainly all have each others backs if difficulties arise. Nothing is better than family!!”
How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings - six children ranging from infant to teenager, sitting on a blue sofa
If I had to guess, Dori, the youngest, appears to be upset by something my brother Kevin is doing to her. Brothers!!

5. Set Clear Boundaries

It can be difficult for some families (including ours) to understand, but even amidst a sea of personal differences, there’s still room for love. Showing love while respecting each other’s differences means setting clear boundaries when you need to, and respecting the boundaries of others.

As kids, my siblings and I used to pick on each other, invade each other’s personal space, and shut down each other’s opinions when we didn’t like what we heard. But as adults, we’ve learned to respect and honor each other’s differences, and love one another through them.

Related: 9 Mistakes That Grandparents Make & Why You Should Avoid Them

How To Be Friends With Your Adult Siblings - five kids in front of cliffs
Family vacation to the Grand Canyon.

6. Know When To Take A Step Back (Or Work On It)

If your relationship with a sibling is strained, it’s important to ask yourself if the issue at the heart of the conflict is worth losing the relationship.

If your relationship with a sibling is unhealthy, it could be best to take a step back. Sibling violence, the most common form of family violence in the United States, can have similar psychological effects to bullying, which isn’t something you should have to endure.

If your sibling relationships are less satisfying than you might like, it may be worth the effort to work on them. We cut our friends a lot of slack, and in my experience, it can be a good thing to learn to extend the same courtesy to our siblings.

Related: The 15 Most Important Things My Dad And Mom Taught Me

What has helped with your relationships with your siblings?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • My 2 brothers live 2 days away from me and a day away from each other. We are all between 70 and 80. We have had a group email going since soon after emailing started, and last year we started having monthly ZOOM meetings. It really makes a difference seeing their faces and hearing their voices. Our spouses may join in for a few moments to say hi, but it’s really just us, so we can talk about our memories growing up. It’s fun, since it usually takes all 3 of us to remember all the details, each one adding something the other 2 forgot!

  • Great ideas. Most of my siblings live close by.,Two of my brothers live out of state. Our family tries to have monthly Zoom sessions where we can just chat and visit. It’s been quite fun for us.

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