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‘But I’m older than you!’

Are you tired of being treated as the scatty sister? The clown? The responsible one? Sibling roles can become fossilised in childhood, with negative results for you and your family dynamics as an adult. Amy Pierce decides to shake it up

Recently, I met my two older sisters for lunch at a restaurant chosen and booked by them. We talked about our father’s minor operation. They had organised everything, yet again, even down to who would look after his dog when he was in hospital. Instead of speaking up, I planned my potential visits to him around theirs. I even made them laugh; part of my sibling role, besides being creative, scatty and sensitive, is to be the joker. Actually, they had made me feel useless and, this time, I’d had enough. I had to reset my sibling status.

The impact of being stuck in a sibling role, and the issues it creates as an adult, is sizeable. It’s rarely discussed – parents and society expect siblings to get on, yet research shows sibling relationships are a leading cause of stress and even depression in adults. No wonder we dread Christmas, when the pressure to play happy families is even more intense and, in fact, time together can end in conflict. As children, our sibling roles made psychological sense, enabling us to stand out to gain parental attention. By sticking to them, we fitted into the family unit. But, as adults, they can be stifling. While I may have had a habit of losing things as a youngster, surely now that I successfully juggle a family, work, pets and a mortgage, I can no longer be seen as disorganised?

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