Saturday, July 20, 2024

When does sibling rivalry become toxic?

It is no secret that if you have not been an only child, there always exists a time when siblings are in competition with each other, writes Vinita Alvares Fernandes

Everybody at some point of time in his or her life has heard —

“So who’s your mums’ favourite?”

“Who’s your dads’ favourite?”

And then as grandparents you have your favourite grandchild too.

Have you experienced sibling rivalry?

I definitely grew up feeling like the least favourite child, but you know what, with time, maturity and experiencing life, I made peace with all of this unwanted negative energy lurking around in my head and came to understand that every relationship is about chemistry. Yes it is the chemistry between two people that makes one relationship more special than the other. The sooner you wake up to this understanding the easier the realization that yes favorites’ do exist but how they are manifested so as to not hurt the others involved is vital.

The crux is that few have this understanding and that is what leads to misunderstandings, jealousy and rivalry. Left to fester and uncontrolled can lead to toxicity in a relationship.

It is the people you are closely related to who will set flames of rivalry. It is no secret that if you have not been an only child, there always exists a time when siblings are in competition with each other. It is when the healthy competition slips into negative rivalry that relationships get toxic and are even severed.

Have you watched the TV show SUCCESSION?

It is a family drama of the politics that exist, siblings shredding each other to bits and comparable to real life situations.

Festivals when families meet to enjoy time together can often turn into a nightmare with a trigger by one family member who lacks patience and has a lot of built up negative personal issues. This can lead to extreme lengths of ousting family members or handled with care to overcome issues, keeping family togetherness at the helm.


When is sibling rivalry healthy and when does it slip into toxicity?

Sibling rivalry exists, that’s a given. It exists in many ways —

  • The minute you start to feel like you’re unequal to your siblings in any way it does eventually lead to a decline in self-worth and reflects in the relation you share with people close to you. The first line of fire is your sibling, as life, success and prosperity do not come to all at the same time.

NOTE: As siblings always share your feelings, don’t let them fester as it leads to toxicity.

  • Parents and the way they handle the rivalry between their children is a very important factor in keeping the negative competition at bay. The role parents’ play can have a negative or positive impact on the relationship. You can create or feed the competition between children, constantly manipulating them and increasing the anxiety, low self-esteem or mental health of all concerned. It is no secret that children do fight for and need their parents love to feel secure and safe in this world. (This applies to grand parents too)

NOTE: It is the responsibility of parents from the day they decide to bring children into the world to make all their children feel equally loved, secure and have self-worth otherwise it will carry forward into the adulthood of the child.

  • With growing up comes lessons on sharing, acceptance of bouquets and brickbats, being happy with each other’s achievements and uplifting each other when times are rough. This understanding will axe any relationship from turning toxic.

NOTE: In life you need to be prepared that you will not always win or be the most special one all the time. Sibling rivalry trains you for life in the outside world from a young age.

  • Expectations! The world is full of expectations; it’s when these expectations are too much to handle rivalry seeps in. You will notice a change in your siblings’ behavior, aggressiveness, resentfulness, constantly trying to please or fulfill a certain role within the family. This is pressure even if you consider yourself to be the favourite child, the expectations on you maybe too high and this is stressful and can back fire.

NOTE: It works both ways, if you don’t consider yourself the ‘favourite’ child or sibling, that can lead to low self-worth and a negative outlook and if you are the ‘favourite’  the pressure to be constantly on the ball for fear of letting down your parents is stressful too.

Overcoming sibling rivalry —

Each individual is a unique creation, the ultimate awe of creation. The same parents, same upbringing, same environment has children who will play different roles in the family.

The caring one,

The naughty one,

The humourous, lighthearted one.

It’s always a mixed bag and that sometimes is the root cause for resentment and relationship breakdowns.

-It’s work in progress, you got to keep working on your relationships, communication of feelings and not repeating acts or misbehavior of intentionally hurting each other.

-Address issues instead of letting them fester.

-Eliminate the blame game, stop living in the past of your parents having favourites, its not your siblings’ fault after all.

-Therapy is a good option especially if you are too far gone with the toxicity. It gives you the tools to love yourself, reparent yourself in a healthy way and be compassionate.

-Wire yourself into understanding your siblings and where they are coming from. It may not always be their fault.

After all we are all products of the same upbringing, the fault lies in the stars.

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