Squashing Adult Sibling Beef
As we grow older, most of us eventually stop fighting with our brothers or sisters. Unfortunately, when siblings are reunited to share in the care of their aging parent(s), it can appear to be like deja vu all over again. Except instead of fighting with your brother about him throwing your Barbie’s head out of the family station wagon, you’re arguing with him about who is taking mom to her doctor’s appointment on Wednesday.
Managing Adult Sibling Arguments
There are between 19-22 million children who play the role of caregiver for an older family member. With the 65 and older demographic being larger than ever, there is no question that with modern medicine people are living longer today than in the past. This means that there are no historical guidelines to follow and for families with multiple children looking after their senior-aged parents, it can turn pretty volatile.
Why Adult Siblings Fight
When taking care of parents, a lot of things can trigger sibling strife such as:
- Where the parent should live
- Who gets what family heirlooms or money
- Who and how money should be spent
- Equality in duty-splitting/time
- Worrying about health and safety
Get it Out
Many times, siblings will argue with one another over what would make their parents happier or do what is best for them. Opening up the floor for candid and thoughtful dialogue helps the best possible solutions be met.
Tell siblings individual needs and which needs can be accommodated for others. Perhaps your brothers or sisters don’t know that there is already a deadline that needs to be met, for example. Vocalize your thoughts and opinions it with them instead of assuming they understand or know as much about the situation as you do.
Care roles should be divided based on the abilities and strengths of the family members. Ask what everyone is comfortable with. For example, a sibling may be an accountant, so they might volunteer to help with the finances.
For caregivers of parents that are able to communicate their wishes, have the senior help siblings come to an agreement based on what they want. Getting the parents involved with decision-making helps resolve a tricky dilemma.
As crucial as it is to keep communication open and frank, there are also times to keep that tongue-tied.
Keep it In
Sometimes in the midst of a heated argument, saying less is more, so choose arguments wisely. And, unless a viewpoint is a matter of safety, be sure to set aside what you want. And, although venting can be therapeutic, be sure to do it in a mature manner. Consider hiring a professional therapist or calling a friend to talk about family issues.
Keeping your family members in the loop can do a lot to prevent communication errors, which can lead to disagreements, confusion, and resentment. If family members can’t physically meet for regular family meetings, then try using group chats like Skype periodically to discuss matters as a unit so that everyone understands and doesn’t feel excluded.
Sometimes it helps to use online sources to keep information all in one place for families that share in parent caregiving duties. From there, it’s easy to collect all the documents, checklists, reminders and agendas in one account so that all the siblings can easily refer to it.
Adding a Neutral Negotiator
Sometimes the only way to end a disagreement from opposing sibling viewpoints is by adding an outsider to the situation to mediate.
No matter how mature siblings are, or how good their interpersonal skills are in normal situations, it’s easy to get lost in the crossfire when involved in the banter. It’s easy to lose perspective doing what (in your opinion) is believed to be. It isn’t until someone outside of the family is able to carefully evaluate both sides with no pre-disposed judgments that it can help conclude the debate. A mediator can be found in trusted family friends or through online family mediator referral sites such as: