Siblings compete. They fight. At times, they resent each other. Whatever their relationship, wouldn’t we prefer if they helped each other out?
Birth order and context come into play, as older children may feel they carry too much responsibility, middle children feel neglected, and the “baby” protests that he’s overprotected. If we’re lucky, our children set aside their differences as they mature.
Watching our kids grow – progressing from one level of maturity to another – brings moments of both worry and pride. Right now, I’m experiencing a little of each. My 17-year heads to college soon. I’m concerned, but confident that he’s ready to make his way. I’m also seeing him hand off the torch to his younger brother. He’s doing so in part at my request, and in part, naturally. Brothers – taking care of each other, and taking care of me.
More good news? My younger son seems prepared to grab that torch and run with it, accepting more responsibility.
Getting through those “tween” years and into adolescence, it’s easy to see the discomfort that our sons and daughters are experiencing. It’s not easy knowing how to assist. Some of our children will open up; if so, we’re lucky. We need to keep asking questions, but expect those answers to be delivered in parts and pieces.
What can we do to help?
- Keep an eye open (discreetly), listen (attentively), and remain as present as possible.
- Maintain our network of informed sources, including siblings and other parents, to let us know if something is seriously awry.
Meanwhile, we hope we’ve given our children the tools to make good judgments, as they deal with an increasingly adult set of issues.
High school presents a dramatically different environment from middle school or elementary school. Risks abound – sex, alcohol, drugs, violent outbursts. And of course, higher stress; our kids are bombarded with academic and social pressures, not to mention the challenges of their rapidly changing bodies.
As older siblings learn the ropes, if we’re lucky, they support the younger ones. As my sons have moved through a variety of developmental stages, I’ve watched my elder son leave his brother to make his own mistakes (probably a wise choice, if difficult to see), yet he’s also been protective, stepping in when required.
Empty Nest Is Coming
As my nest is about to be lightened by one, I’m happy to see my younger son asking for more responsibility, initiating discussions about college visits, how to research scholarships, whether or not I’d allow him to get a part-time job if he could find one. He’s asking his brother how certain aspects of the household “infrastructure” works, while reminding me that he isn’t a “little kid” anymore.
His initiative is showing me that he’s maturing, quickly, and I’ll need to change accordingly. I am watching the torch being passed, as one young man is coming of age, and the other – with the help of his brother – is stepping up for his turn in the spotlight.