Here, I described my relationship with my sister which is absolutely the best and the closest sibling relationship I have ever had a chance to observe. I’m sure there are people who have just as great a bond with their brother or sister, but I am convinced that nobody in the world has a stronger one. I simply do not believe this is possible.
So what can the parents do to ensure that their children develop such a relationship? Here is a list of things my parents did. They obviously worked* because the result is spectacular:
1. Address sibling rivalry. When a child is used to being the one and only in her parents’ life, it might be traumatic to see a baby join the family and get the bulk of everybody’s attention. As a result, sibling rivalry might arise with an older sibling trying to divert the love and the attention back to herself. When Molly was born, I was old enough to notice that I wasn’t the center of my parents’ universe any longer and, of course, I was very jealous. My mother addressed this issue once and for all with the following conversation (which she doesn’t even remember any more but which had an absolutely life-changing importance to a 6-year-old me):
“You must have noticed that I spend all of my time with Molly now, right?” she asked.
“Yes,” I responded petulantly. “You don’t even play with me any more.”
“You see, ” my mother said. “I’ve known and loved you for six years longer than her. And this will never change. No matter how old you and Molly get to be, my love for you will always be six years longer.”
“Really??” I asked. “What about when I’m 28?” (That was the age of real senility in my 6-year-old mind.)
“Yes, when you are 28 and 48 and 68. Which is why right now I’m trying to make this up for her in a way by spending all this time with her. She is little and she might not understand this as well as you do. Do you want to help me make her feel almost as loved as you are?”
From that moment on, any jealousy I felt simply evaporated. I started feeling sorry for the little baby who was six endless years less loved than I was.
* I am not addressing a relationship between twins because it is very special and different from one between regular siblings, and I simply have no knowledge about how it works.