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Can You Heal Your Relationship with Your Adult Sibling? Part 1

Posted Feb 15 2010 3:16pm

By CK Wilde for 3GenFamily Blog

“Dad’s been admitted to the hospital. We’re going to . . .”

You and your siblings have been living your own lives for quite a while. That contentious relationship you had a children has been gone for a long time . . . or so you thought.

“No. You need to wait until I get there.”

In the middle of a family crisisat the worst possible timethe old patterns and reactions reappear. Nowthey add even more stress to the situation.

You may think“What is wrong with my brother/sister? Why are they acting like this?”

The short answer is–your parent trained each of you to behave the way you do.

Observational studies by Dr. Judy Dunn have found that children as young as 12 months are closely watching how their parents react to their siblings. They absorb the rules of conduct and  model their behavior based on what their parents do.

Depending on how your parent has treated each of youyou are fulfilling the role that was part of the unwritten code back when you and your siblings were children living at home. You are also responding to your feelings about it. Angerresentmentfearloveanxiety—you name it.

Peter GoldenthalPh. D offers strategies to heal long lost issues in his bookWhy Can’t We Get Along: Healing Adult Sibling Relationships. As a practicing family psychologistDr. Goldenthal has been helping adult siblings create better relationships for twenty years.

This book suggests a multitude of thoughtful ideas and strategies to create a better relationship with your brother or sister. One of the strategies in the bookand one that I found most helpfulis exonerate your parents.

Not just forgive them.

Exonerate. . . (definition: to free somebody from blame or guilt.)

Author Joe Vitale tells a story in one of his books about getting together with an old friend from high school after years of being gone from his hometown. The conversation drifted to Joe’s difficult relationship with his father. His friend commented to Joe that no one gets up in the morning and asks“how do I want to mess up my kid today?”

Your parent was doing the best that he/she could under your family’s particular circumstances. Oftenyour family is re-playing the rolesarguments and blaming that have been handed down for generations.

Butyou can end the cycle by stepping outside of the situation. Forgive your father or mother and stop blaming them.

Dr. Goldenthal suggests thatif you have trouble forgiving your parent for long ago hurtsyou can begin a process of exoneration by asking your parent what it was like when he/she was a child. Oryou can look through family albums and listen carefully to what your father or mother says about your grandparents and aunts and uncles.

I know that I could not have stepped in as caregiver for my Dad if I had not started a process of forgiving him. Over the course of the two years that I was my father’s primary caregiverI got hear many stories about his early life and struggles.

It was fascinating to listen to his stories about World War II.  He was a terrified young soldier sailing on a ship in the Pacific when Japanese planes attacked the ship.  Even after 60 yearsthe fear was so real that he began to cry.

Suddenlyhis long-time animosity to all things Japanese made more sense. Mortal terror had turned to anger upon his return to civilian life.

Anger was a continual issue in his life. It always angered my father when I didn’t meet his expectations. Yetonce I understood that the anger came from other events that had nothing to do with meI was able to sidestep the guilt of supposedly not measuring up.

Exoneration is an effective tool.

In the next blog post“acknowledgement is powerful.”

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© 2010 CK Wilde. All Rights Reserved. Some of the links in this blog post connect to affiliate programs that provide a small commission (books from Amazon.) Please feel free to link to this post but you must have prior written permission (please use the comments) to reproduce this post either whole or in part

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