How do we fix sibling relationships damaged during the pandemic?

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It's one of the most important relationships we have, yet it doesn't always receive the attention it deserves. How well do you get along with your siblings? If the answer is "not great," what can you do to fix it?

By nature, humans are a "pack species," according to clinical psychologist Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco. When those relationships don't go well, people feel bad. But as Carson-Sacco reminds us, the past year was specially tough on relationships.

"The pandemic has put ... kerosene on a lot of stuff," she said. "We protect one another. And what did the pandemic do? It said be apart at a time when the world is more dangerous than you remember in your lifetime."

Carson-Sacco observed the isolation, coupled with the rampant political rhetoric on social media, created the perfect storm for fracturing relationships.

"That has been something that I have been talking about a lot with people this year," she said. "They are very sad. They are very upset."

Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco
Clinical psychologist Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco says spending time with a sibling away from the rest of the family is a good step in repairing a strained relationship. Photo credit Dr. Christina Carson-Sacco

What can you do if your relationship with your sibling is strained? Carson-Sacco said taking some time and thinking about what is important to you is key.

"What is the connection when it was good? Go back to that if something has happened that has upset you and driven a wedge," she advised.
"What did you like about each other before the rupture? I think family dynamics are complex. If any of us as an adult has gone back home, you know those old family dyamics just snap right back into place the moment you walk in the front door."

Carson-Sacco suggested you speak to your sibling and arrange a time to do something together separate from the rest of the family, and set new parameters for your relationship that are comfortable for everyone. She also said taking a break might be helpful.

"That break doesn't have to be forever," she said, "but you also don't have to go back to the relationship the way it was prior."