An interview with Alicia Barnes about her brother Josh Barnes who had schizophrenia. Alicia describes his fear that he had brought in on himself, and how much blame and judgment there is for mental illness. She describes his difficulty with taking medication, and how the medicines impacted his creativity and sense of purpose in writing and playing music. She describes the limits of his care and how he never had access to talk therapy, but only to 20 minute medication checks. She talks about how stigma resulted in his not talking about his illness and how that may ultimately have been lethal for him. She speaks movingly about becoming involved with Bring Change 2 Mind, a group devoted to helping reduce stigma and discrimination for people with mental illnesses.
An interview with researcher, Susan McHale about the impact of gender and culture on how siblings view each other. Susan explores the way that individualistic cultures foster sibling competitiveness and resentment of favoritism. She describes how in some Mexican American families siblings may support the unfair advantage of one successful sibling who then reflects well on them all. She also describes how gender socialization of girls as caregivers is protective to their younger siblings. She cites research that shows how having an older brother is more likely to result in exposure of the younger siblings to risky behaviors as compared to having an older sister. She reiterates the importance of the sibling relationship as a source of longstanding and as yet poorly studied influence on people’s lives. Indeed, one study suggests that adults with positive sibling relationships at age 65 are more likely to be happy and physically healthy.
An interview with parenting expert, Adele Faber, co-author with Elaine Mazlish of the best-selling, Siblings Without Rivalry and, How to Talk so Kids will Listen, and Listen so Kids will Talk. Adele speaks about the importance of listening to and validating kids feelings about their siblings, no matter how uncomfortable they make us. She uses the analogy of how you would feel if your spouse brought home another wife, or another husband who you were expected to care for and share your things with. She models empathic responses that parents can give to their children’s anger, jealousy and even hatred of their siblings. She also acknowledges that it is common and normal to find yourself more drawn to one of your children, and that the feelings alone are not hurtful to your child. She offers helpful ways to behave such that the unique gifts of each child are seen and celebrated.
An interview with author and professor, Dr. Vernon Wiehe about sibling abuse and how it differs from sibling rivalry. He describes a pattern of frequent victimization of one sibling at the hands of another, usually older sib, with long lasting consequences in the life of the victim. Dr. Wiehe points out that sibling abuse is even more common that domestic violence or child abuse, but is often minimized by parents. He describes ways to prevent it, including not leaving younger children alone in the care of their older siblings if the younger one doesn’t feel safe, talking to children openly about violence and sexuality, setting limits with privacy, listening to children and believing them. He also talks about the now pervasive influence of violent video games and television shows and how violence begets further violence, through modeling and desensitization. He encourages survivors not to waste time looking for an apology from the sibling who abused them, but to pour that energy into seeking healing in therapy.
An interview with researcher and the director of the More Fun with Sisters and Brothers program, Laurie Kramer. Laurie explained that siblings don’t only feel rivalry and competition, they also have times of fun and connection. She suggested that parents attempts at conflict resolution often result in separating the kids. Rather than minimizing conflict which will be ubiquitous, Dr. Kramer argues that parents should find ways to increase the amount of time spent in having fun together. It is the ration of fun to conflict that matters most. Her program teaches siblings core skills of taking each other’s perspective, managing their own strong emotions and not assuming the worst about the other’s intention. She teaches kids to Stop-Think and Talk as a way to get out of conflict. She also teaches sibs ways to engage in play with each other that is fun.