There may be no relationships that affect us more profoundly than our relationship with our brothers and sisters. Our parents may leave us too early, our own children may grow up too fast and we may be separated from our spouses, but our siblings are with us for the entire ride of life’s journey. Therefore strengthening the bond with your brothers and sisters will make your life sweeter, happier and more secure.

Unfortunately lots of sibling relationships are complicated and filled with woes. Sibling rivalry starts as soon as the sense of self begins to emerge at the age of 18 months. Studies show that siblings between the ages of two and four fight on average 9.5 times an hour, and 95% of the fights are over property – “He touched me,” or “I don’t want him to look at me.” Children are born into this world to compete for the attention of their parents. If Johnny is a star soccer player, Jimmy has to play the same sport or become the student counsel chair in order to gain 50% of his parents’ admiration. Although fairness is crucially important to siblings, parents are naturally wired to harbor on the feeling of favoritism. A study published on Time Magazine indicates that 70% of fathers and 65% of mothers exhibit preference for at least one child. The remaining parents are probably doing a better job at concealing their feelings. Some parents make it explicit that only certain accomplishments (e.g. academic achievements or sports) will be applauded in the family, which could potentially force their children to compete with one another. It’s never easy to be the underdog or black sheep of the family. Since children are born with distinctive temperament, a parent may prefer a child whose temperament matches or compliments hers.

As parents, we aren’t always helping our children build up healthy, trusting and close relationships. Today I can honestly say I appreciate the uniqueness in Jane and Michelle and love them equally and whole-heartedly. But it wasn’t always this way. Michelle and I got along better because like me she is organized, pleasant and willing to listen. I used to have this silly idea stuck in my head that my girls were supposed to be born best friends and they’d always love to share with and help each other. The reality made a stark contrast to what I envisioned. Jane and Michelle were like the average siblings, constantly fighting and bickering. It caused a great deal of stress and heartache for me. If I could have looked beyond the escalated noises and annoyances, I might have been able to see that they were learning precious life lessons such as conflict resolutions and comprises while experiencing the interpersonal conflicts. Instead of playing judge and police, I could have drawn the boundaries for them and provided timely guidance that were lacking at the time.

Luckily, the relationship between my girls has transformed from a contentious to a deeply bonded one. As much as I wanted Michelle to enter her dream college and dream major, I am actually delighted that she chose Kelley Business School of Indiana University over the Business School of UIUC. I believe that something beautiful will come out of the sisters spending the next two years together on the same campus: their love will continue to grow and flourish and they will truly become permanent traveling companions to each other.

When Jake was little, he didn’t want much to do with his sisters. He was indeed mama’s boy. That has changed too. Nowadays, Jake loves to hang out with his big sisters and discuss his interests and aspirations with them. Being mindful of nourishing the sibling bonds, I frequently seek advice from Jane and Michelle with regards to decisions concerning Jake. Nothing warms my heart more than watching my children loving and caring for one another.

I only have one sister and we don’t enjoy a close relationship. Both of us were brought up by our grandmother, but my sister wasn’t on Grandma’s good book. I was encouraged not to be like her. Even though everyone says my sister and I look so much alike, I see us have nothing in common. My niece has been living with us for the last eight months. Through her, I am getting a peek of my sister’s value systems and her big dreams for her precious girl. I disagree with her on many issues. However it is time for me to come down from the higher ground and reach out to her and connect with her because after all she is my only biological sibling in this world and I treasure our bond by blood.