For many of us, the thought of family can conjure up warm fuzzy memories. Perhaps you look back on happy childhood times with fondness, or perhaps you miss your family now more than ever. Whatever the case may be, it’s important to not let your guard down. Family ties are a delicate bond that can often be fragile. The way you treat your family members says a great deal about you as a person. It can be easy to feel close to one or two members of your family, yet feel distant from others. That’s why it’s important to understand how your siblings and their spouses/partners feel about family and to act accordingly.

To begin exploring this concept, let’s take a step back in time. Way back in the day, when we thought nothing of dropping a “t” and using “they,” “them”, and “their” interchangeably, the word “family” didn’t exist in the English language. That is, until the 18th century, when this term started showing up in print. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the word “family” started becoming widely used, and even then, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it became acceptable to use “they” and “their” instead of “he” and “his.”

These linguistic shifts illustrate just how much the meaning of family has changed over the years. In modern times, a family is typically defined as “two or more related individuals who live together and share responsibility for each other,” and in practice, this definition isn’t all that far off. While it’s true that married couples comprise the largest family unit in America, even those in committed relationships often feel a sense of obligation to their parents and siblings. This is because growing up in a large family can make you more dependent on your peers, which in turn makes you more cognizant of your relationships, including those you have with your parents and siblings.

There are various dynamics that can play out within a family. Sometimes, one or more members of the family will try to take on a more dominant role. This can create issues of identity and jealousy, especially among young people. Conflict sometimes arises from a desire to break free from the restrictions of a traditional lifestyle and the need to feel accepted for who you really are. These are all legitimate concerns, and they don’t have to be settled by bad behavior. They can be discussed and hopefully resolved. Another potential pitfall that can arise from overly bonded relationships is feeling that you can’t speak your mind or be yourself around certain family members. In these situations, it may be beneficial to have a break from the relationship. Finally, children who grow up in large families can sometimes experience a lack of attention, which leads to low self-esteem and even more dependency. It’s not easy being the youngest child in a family, and it’s even less easy if you feel unnoticed or inadequate compared to your siblings. While it can be tempting to try and fill the attention deficit by being hyperbolic or overly dramatic, these behaviors can actually aggravate the situation. Instead, the family that needs the most help is the one in which the parent(s) allow their emotional needs to get in the way of their child(ren)’s healthy development. This can prevent the child(ren) from recognizing their talents and good qualities, and prevent them from becoming resilient and independent adults.

Parents And Siblings

As a general rule, parents play a big role in their children’s lives, and the reverse is generally true as well. This responsibility is not solely limited to child rearing, either. You also need to consider what your parents think about you and your siblings. What do they say about you? What do they expect from you? What do they want you to achieve? How do they feel about your lifestyle? Your habits? These are all important questions, and it’s worth reflecting on how your answers will affect your relationships with your family.


Your siblings are your half-brothers and half-sisters, and they are the offspring of your father and mother. You may have more than one brother or sister. Consider the sibling relationship a reflection of the parent-child relationship, but on a smaller scale. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean that you don’t have feelings or require attention, especially when it comes to your parents’ relationship with each other. Your parents are likely to be more critical of each other when you’re around, and it’s up to you to either accept or reject that, depending on how you feel.

Your siblings are important because they represent your half-race. Sometimes, this aspect of your heritage can be a point of contention with your parents. You may feel that your African American heritage is something that sets you apart from your peers, and your parents may feel the same way. You may also feel that your Chinese background gives you an advantage in certain situations, which your parents may appreciate. You can’t let your heritage control your actions, but you also can’t deny its significance in your life. Being a part of two cultures may bring you happiness, but it can also cause tension if your parents don’t accept both sides of your nature.

Spouses/Partners And Siblings

You need to take your parent’s divorce, remarriage, and new family relationships into consideration as well. Your spouse/partner and your siblings share an important bond with each other, but they also have a different relationship with you than your parents do. You are generally closer to your parents than you are to your spouse/partner, but your sibling relationship can be a point of contention as well. You may feel that your parent’s divorce and remarriage is compromising your sibling relationship, but you also have to remember that your sibling is your spouse/partner’s half-brother or half-sister. They are a part of your family, even if they don’t live with you. Your parents may see your spouse/partner as a son or a daughter, and your siblings as cousins, and that can be difficult for all parties involved.

Try to put yourself in your parent’s shoes for a moment. Consider what it must be like to be on the other side of the equation. You’re seeing your child’s best friend every day and you may even see each other several times a week, yet you still feel that you’ve never really “gotten” to know each other. Your spouse/partner may hold a similar sentiment, as they are likely to feel a connection to you through your parent. It can be tricky to shed your parent’s skin and feel like a new person, yet still be the parent of a child. It’s natural to feel a bit insecure about this dynamic, and it can contribute to occasional sibling rivalry. This is an inevitable part of growing up and creating your own family, yet it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. It can be a source of strength and pride, as well as a reminder of your commitment to each other as a parent and adult.

Dependents And Siblings

Your parents may have other dependent children via previous relationships, and it is your responsibility to take care of them as well. Your siblings may feel that they have a right to be provided for, since you were the last child of your parents, and this can create tension with your other dependents. You need to be the voice of reason in this situation and remind your parents that they have other children, who are also reliant on them. It can be difficult to balance your parents’ needs with those of your siblings, especially if they aren’t cooperative or helpful. In these situations, it may be beneficial to have a neutral party, such as an attorney, help mediate disputes. The more cooperative your parents are, the less likely you are to have problems with your siblings. You also need to be aware of how much your parents depend on you, as this can sometimes cause them to be less than objective when it comes to their personal lives. Perhaps they’ll start to see you as a rival, or even a threat, because they no longer feel that they can rely solely on your support.