The Most Lasting Relationship: Siblings
Sibling relationships - whether healthy or unhealthy, loving or antagonistic - are the longest-lasting and most constant intimate relationships formed by human beings, lasting longer than most friendships, through the deaths of parents and beyond marriages, extending a shared history and deeply-rooted shared experience from early childhood into old age.
In examining sibling relationships, research tells us that adults' expectations for their children's sibling relationships reflect many years of personal experience and education, adding to their expectations layers of genetic as well as emotional meaning. But the research also indicates that for young children, family relationships are purely social in nature.
As children mature, they will become better able to make sense of connections that are not just social and will be more interested in the distinctions. We know that during adolescence, many adopted people begin to feel intensely interested in the concept of genetic connection and what it might mean for them. Genetic relatives might be able to provide some explanation for how one looks or why one possesses or lacks skills for certain physical or intellectual or artistic endeavors and might offer some insight into how tall or how shapely one might be as an adult. As adopted people approach adolescence, they are likely to be ready to be interested in, to understand and to appreciate additional complexities about the existence of, or relationship with, their genetic siblings.
Even families formed entirely by birth frequently may include one or more family members who feel "different" from the others. Certainly, since the children and parents in adoption-expanded families have differing genetic backgrounds, they cannot expect to be as prone to be "alike" physically, intellectually, or emotionally as are people who have a genetic connection. So adoption-expanded families may be more "at risk" for poor matches than are birth-connected sibs and parents.
But parents can do much to work on these issues. Here is a list of ideas to consider.
Every child deserves to be wanted, loved, and valued for who he is rather than as a stopgap or replacement for a child one dreams of parenting.
Treat each child as the individual he or she is.
Do all that you can to nurture a sense of shared family culture.
Watch for and support the ways in which children, separated by age or of opposite sexes, discover things they enjoy in common.
Be realistic in your expectations about sibling relationships.
A common store of family based and sibling inclusive a family experience enhances the sense of family that each of us takes into adulthood. When we are gone, it is this we will leave our children: memories and values that root them against the storms of life, and siblings - brothers and sisters - who share these roots.
About the Author: Abagaile Odalis is a family and relationship professional with 12 years of experience in this field. She has written two revolutionary books on how to Seduce Women and the other to Attract Men.