Step, Half, Full: Siblings without rivalry

When I was born, I had an older sister. First, I copycatted everything she did (older sisters, I can practically see you rolling your eyes) and then, with time, I adopted less of a “monkey see monkey do” approach but more of a “monkey see, monkey decide if monkey wants to do the exact same thing or try something different” approach. This allowed me to realize that I felt inspired by whatever she did (number one singles on tennis team in high school) regardless of the fact that I was doing something totally different (ran cross country in high school).


Today, it’s not just the two of us anymore and I am lucky to have a great big modern family. As in, instead of one sibling I now have SIX. I have 2 sisters and 4 brothers and some are half siblings, some are stepsiblings. Here are seven ways to nurture great relationships with your siblings.

1.    The College study abroad internship: I was delighted to help when my younger sister asked me for my thoughts on a cover letter to apply for a college study abroad internship. I Googled a couple of examples, which can be a good way to locate a template, and then sent her a draft that highlighted what makes her unique: she is a record-holding athlete on her Collegiate swim team and Dean’s List student.

Tip: Ask older siblings for help with resumes and cover letters.


2.    Living healthfully: When I tried a yoga class 2 years ago and became a weekly student, I told my youngest brother about it and was surprised to hear that he also did yoga. When we were on a family vacation recently, I learned of a yoga class at the resort and mentioned it to him. He joined me at the next class. We both liked the instructor and it was fun to chat about it post-practice. Win-win.

Tip: Be a healthy influence on each other.


 3.    Being different: In college my roommate introduced me to country music. I enjoyed it but never really discussed this interest with my family or friends since they did not like country (okay, I was openly a Carrie Underwood fan but that was it). I kept it on the DL until my brother told me that he was also into country. Next thing I knew we were driving around with the windows open belting the best of Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean.

 Tip: Own your unique interests, you never know who may share them.


 4.    Traveling the world: The oldest of my younger brothers (I should just draw a family tree for you…) dared to adventure far away, all the way to China to teach English. While he was there he took up boxing with an Aussie trainer. When he returned home, we went for a run and I learned about what living in China was like and after he taught me how to spar in a nearby park (tip 2 in action!)

Tip: Learn about your sibling’s life and adventures.


 5.    Starting your own business: My older sister is now married, a mom of two, and started her own business last year (#superwoman). My siblings helped her revamp her website and prepare materials.  Today, everyone in the family continues to network on her behalf, even if it’s just via posting relevant articles to her business Facebook page or mentioning to a friend that she does personal training.

Tip: Boss all of your younger siblings around! (JK) Tap your sibs to network.


 6.    Making a fool out of yourself: We’ve all been to weddings or parties where there are silly games or contests or dancing. On a family vacation when one of my brothers volunteered to be in a dance contest, I realized that despite everyone watching, he was dancing like no one was watching. I was inspired to “just be in the moment” and have a relaxed, care free attitude (fellow type As I’m looking at you).

 Tip: Confidence is contagious. Join in.


 7.    A huge breakup: This is a big one. And it’s about all of my siblings being there for me when I left a relationship a couple of years ago. They sent me supportive letters, helped me move, my older sis arranged for a sitter and her and my brother-in-law went out on the town with me, and everyone rallied around me during a totally traumatic time. I would not be this better version of myself without the love and support of my family.

Tip: Let your family know, feel, how grateful you are for them via your actions (i.e. dedicate your column to siblings Kimmy, Molly, George, Jonathon, Chad & Sam.)

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Kelly Christiansen

A top columnist at MsCareerGirl, marketing guru Kelly Christiansen has 10+ years of strategic leadership experience and is a Senior Marketing Strategist on the Health Care team at Kahler Slater, an architecture firm in Wisconsin. An avid reader, runner, and recipe experimenter, you can follow Kelly on twitter @kellymc247

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