The dynamics of sibling’s relationships change over the years. For some this means improvement yet for many it may mean a decline in your family relationships. Family has extreme power over us. We often see our family as operating a certain way and although it may be frustrating, nothing changes. Yet, life is about choices. Psychotherapist and Life Coach Didi Zahariades joined us to help. She says choose to improve your family and sibling relationships!
- Recognize your Role in the Family From a young age, each person has a role in the family. Own it or change it. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. The first step to improving your family relationship is to recognize your role in the family. Everyone has a role. It may be as specific as, ‘Mom’s favorite’ or as complex as ‘The Perfect One.’ What is your role? If you truly don’t know, ask a sibling. Or ask your spouse, significant other, or even your child. Once you know your role in the family, you may choose to accept it or change it. Life is about making choices. (If you are the accommodating one, change it.) There is power is choosing to change your role in the family. And it can be done, but it is difficult.
- Practice Acceptance. Accept your sibling as the adult he/she is. It is often easy to accept the shortcomings of others; outside our family. We do this by practicing acceptance. It may feel ok to accept a boyfriend’s poor behavior for a period of time or make a girlfriend’s choices ok, but we may set the bar exceptionally high for our family members. Then when a brother lets you down or your father is difficult, suddenly there is strife in the family. It is difficult to be disappointed by your family member but you may choose to not take it personally. You may want your sister to be a certain way; she isn’t. You may wish your brother called more; he doesn’t. We have to make a choice; shift your expectations & practice acceptance or get upset, annoyed, and frustrated each time we interact with our family member.
- Go Teflon! Life is short; slather on a coating of protection from the words that hurt. You need an extra coating of Teflon if you are going to survive the family of Guilt-trippers. Every family has their own way of interacting, but many have the individual who is a master’s of the guilt-trip. You can choose to go head-to-head with this person or you can choose to skip the drama and everything that goes with it. Including the long, exhausting conversations which often change nothing. This is a shift from becoming exasperated by the pressure of this relationship and instead of choosing to let it go.
- Go Direct for what you need & set Boundaries. Speak direct to the brother/sister about what you need. Be direct & GO direct. It has been said that you have to ask for what you want; this is true within families. If everyone does what Suzy wants is it because she is the one saying what she wants? If you want something from your brother, don’t ask his wife. Go Direct. It sounds simple, but a family is built around a lot of history and certain individuals are used to asking while others are used to getting. You also get to say no. Saying no can be extremely powerful. If you only have 30 minutes, then you say, “I only have 30 minutes.” Let go of the concern and worry about it.
- Have Perspective. 10 Holidays a year + Travel + Busy calendar + Age = Perspective Life is extremely busy and if your family is truly difficult, then perspective is key. The reality is 10 holidays a year which is less than 1/month; most likely less than ½ you spend with your family; pull out a calendar and see how often you are together. You may need to offer some perspective to you and others. If you really don’t enjoy time with your family limit it to these holidays. If your brother married a self-absorbed, boring, woman then accept you will only see him at the holidays. This is ok. If you have a family enmeshed and lucky enough to see each other on a regular basis, then the perspective is you are choosing to spend time with these people. You are an adult. At some point, we each get old and you may wish you had more time, less travel, and years to get back
For more information, including details on Didi's new book, The Confident Woman, visit her website.