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“My little brother tags along with me everywhere. I can’t get rid of him and my mom says I have to be nice to him. He’s an embarrassment! Help!”
Let’s face it: you are the person your brother or sister looks up to and wants to be like. You know so much more than your sibling does and you do such interesting things! Naturally your sib can’t get enough of your company. You, however, have had more than enough of his!
What can you do to leave your pest-y brother or sister behind without getting into trouble with your parents? What can you do if your parents expect you to let him or her tag along?
Let’s make a few assumptions here. Let’s assume that your little sister has friends of her own and is perfectly capable of playing with them. She’s not disabled in some way or otherwise isolated. Let’s also assume that when your parents expect you to include your sister, they’re not asking you to babysit her. She’s old enough or there’s enough parental supervision that she doesn’t have to be with you for her own safety. Given these two assumptions, what can you do? First, figure out the source of the problem.
Figure out if the problem is really you. Do your friends think your brother or sister is interfering or is it just you? If your sibling could fit in – if, in fact, he does fit in – but you just don’t want to share your friends with him, then the problem is with you, not with your brother. If you feel jealous of your friends because you think they might like your brother better than you, then it’s your self-esteem that needs a boost. It’s hard to be outshone by a sibling (even harder if the sibling is younger than you) but keeping him away from your friends won’t work for long. If he’s that great, other people will like him, even if that means they leave you behind. You’re going to have to adjust.
Figure out if this feels like a change for your sibling. If you and your sister have been best friends all through childhood and now that you’re getting older, you want to separate from her a bit, then that’s natural but you can see it’s also a problem for her. It’s a change and by making that change you’re leaving your sister alone and lonely. Naturally, she’s getting clingy. You’ll need to help her adjust.
Figure out if this disrupts your parents’ fantasy family. Some parents have this fantasy of a happy family, sort of a closed group, with the big kids helping out the little kids and everyone getting along, best friends forever. Think The Sound of Music or The Jackson Five. This is a fantasy – it works out in musicals but not so well in real-life families – but some parents still cling to this sunny vision. They have trouble realizing their kids are individual people but instead lump them together in a group. You’re going to have to try to set them straight.
Knowing where the problem really lies is a big step towards solving it or towards coming to terms with it. Keep in mind that until you grow up and leave home, you may not actually ever untangle yourself from your sibling. You may have to put up with things for a while. How can you manage that?
Talk to your sibling or to your parents, or to both. Folks don’t know how you feel until you tell them so have a conversation about this. Do it at a time when you’ve not just been angry with your sibling for getting in your way – choose a time when emotions aren’t already running high. Say what you feel and what you’d like to see happen.
Set some boundaries. If you and your friends are playing in the family room and your sister comes in and starts talking to people, well, it’s the family room and she’s part of the family. You sort of have to let her. If you want to be alone, go to your room. If you share your room with your sister, work with her to mark off her space and your space.
Signal people in a nice way that you don’t want to be interrupted. Some writers wear a hat when they’re working on their writing so that other people know to not bother them. Remember that people don’t know that you don’t want them around unless you tell them some way and it’s not their fault that they exist, so be nice about telling them when you need to be by yourself.
Reserve some time just for your brother or sister. You will find it easier to make the transition from your sibling’s go-to companion to someone with your own, separate life if you let your sib into your life at specific times. You could set aside time every evening for your sibling, to work on Legos or play video games, or you could set aside time every weekend to play games or just hang out. Give your sister the attention she craves from you in ways you can supply.
Sooner or later, your pest-y brother or sister will grow up and leave you behind. Just wait and this will happen. Sooner or later, you and your sibling will go away to college or get places of your own and your relationship will become more adult-like and more distant. At that point you might look back on your childhood friendship with your brother or sister with nostalgia. Things change with time. Be patient and be nice.
It’s hard to be someone’s hero, but you can do it. If you let it, it feels nice.