Sometimes it’s extremely difficult to be the eldest sibling. You were the only one as a kid who had to actually follow the strict 9 p.m. bedtime, which turned into an 11 p.m curfew once you got to high school. You actually weren’t allowed to watch PG-13 movies until you were 13. You were the first to tell your mom you got your period while you were at the airport with your entire family. You were criticized by your dad for getting straight B’s in all your math classes in middle school. You actually asked your parents if you could “have dessert” instead of just eating whatever the fuck you want. So it’s no wonder you might harbor some resentment towards your younger, inappropriate movie-watching, junk-food eating, rebellious siblings. Yet, they still deserve your best effort at forging the best path you can for them in the world. Here are some ways to be the best older sibling you can possibly be:
1. Show up
This might seem obvious to the point of stupidity, but making a point to show up goes a long way in establishing a positive relationship with your younger siblings. Remember: they had to be dragged along to all of your band’s shows, graduations and soccer games, it’s only fair to show them the same respect. It might be expensive or difficult to attend your younger sibling’s life events, but cancel your plans and be there for their birthday parties (no excuses).
By “Listen,” I don’t mean sit with them at the table scrolling through your Instagram feed while they try and tell you about the new guy they like. Put your phone away. Turn it off. Be attentive. Even if what they’re talking about seems petty to you or you feel “above it” or past that stage in your life. Make your best effort to remember what those firsts felt like. Whatever they’re experiencing and feeling is new and real to them and you have to address it in exactly that way. Don’t immediately start spewing anecdotes from your own life and experiences, let them have their moment.
3. Invite Them
Don’t be stingy with your friends, your things and your life. Invite them to hang out with your friends if you’re doing something age appropriate. If you prefer to keep your social life separate, siblings are the perfect people to bring along on daily chores as well. A drug store run to get shampoo or toothpaste can be a perfect opportunity to catch up with your younger sister or brother. Pick up some fro-yo on the way home.
4. Be Honest
Be honest with them about your very human mistakes and failures. Tell them about the time you threw a party in high school and the sink broke off the wall. Admit truths about the toxic relationship you had with that manipulative narcissist when you were sixteen. Show them the heinous pictures of you from middle school when you wore blue eyeliner and two different colored converse (yellow and purple). They can learn from your mistakes and then make their own. They’re still going to throw their own parties, but at least the sink will be safe.
5. Be Positive
Of course you have moments where you feel ‘the sludge’—you hate your job, you haven’t cut your fingernails in two weeks and they’re all jagged and yellow, your one friend that you rely on to do everything with you is busy— but your younger siblings don’t always need to hear about those things. Don’t lie to them about how you’re feeling but make an effort to present the best version of yourself to them. Try and consistently provide a positive perspective so that when they have moments where they’re feeling ‘the sludge’ they can look to you for a fresh outlook and a comforting voice. Be someone that motivates them to try their hardest and encourages them to perceive challenges as opportunities.