How to keep the peace with siblings
Keeping the peace between siblings while caregiving a family member can be very difficult. When one sibling steps forward as is usually the case, it’s almost guaranteed that the rest of the siblings will feel the need to micro-manage. Whether it’s due an honest sense of responsibility, feelings of guilt that they are not doing enough or just simply the act of playing out old family history and roles, this behavior by the rest of the “kids” can make being the caregiver in the driver’s seat feel like torture.
Being the decision-maker is never easy but when we are seconded guessed, constantly questioned or met with resistance from the rest of the family, our job becomes unnecessarily uncomfortable. We can become resentful and thrown off our game. Accepting the fact that this is all part of the territory when caregiving a family member is the first step to realizing this is not about you or your fault. The next step is providing your family with ways to avoid this sibling rivalry and discord. I found the following three tips can provide powerful ways to keep the peace between the main caregiver and the remaining siblings.
The best way to avoid confrontation is communication. Being open and receptive to discussion and offering as much information as possible can calm nerves and diffuse any confusion about what is going on. If everyone is on the same page and questions are answered and dealt with as soon as they come up, the element of surprise goes away. People relax when they are in the loop and know what’s going on. In addition, the relief you will feel by sharing your thoughts and feelings instead of keeping them to yourself is a terrific side effect.
- Have family meetings
Have monthly, weekly or even daily family meetings or discussions about upcoming decisions or to go over issues that have come up. When possible include Mom and Dad in the meeting so everyone has a voice and say in the process. Making decisions with everyone’s input ensures that the responsibility falls on everyone’s shoulders, not just yours. Having parents participate in the conversation when they are able allows them to express their feelings and wishes. Including Mom and Dad allows them to feel that they still have control over the important issues in their lives and getting their input can save a lot of heartache down the road. Having their wishes out in the open makes it easier to honor those wishes should they ever be unable to voice them in the future. With everyone on the same page and everything out in the open for all to witness and respect it’s easier to work together in harmony. You might even take notes about what was discussed to keep a record for the future and if you have the time and energy, send the notes to all concerned in an email after the meeting.
- Add an outsider.
When possible add someone to the mix who is not a member of the family. This could include anyone from the family primary care doctor or social worker to a trustworthy family friend or caring neighbor. This may require some finesse and delicate maneuvering to ensure Mom and Dad and the rest of the family don’t feel their privacy or family structure has been compromised but having an objective ear and opinion when things begin to get heated between family members is often a blessing. Outsiders are not invested in family history or baggage and can provide a sound mind and unbiased opinion. They can also witness agreements or exchanges for easy reference down the road. This can be invaluable.
I truly believe there’s nothing like family and the bond we share with those we are related to is extraordinary and deep. We all really just want to be loved and appreciated by those closest to us. No family is perfect but if we do everything we can to honor each member and ourselves by being open, honest and willing to give and accept help, we can all benefit from the bonds and love we share. We are stronger together than divided. Work to bring everyone together and the caregiving experience will be easier, less stressful and less lonely.
I’d love to hear about your experiences. Have you had run-ins with your siblings? How have you handled this situation?