How College will affect your sibling relationship, and why that’s important

Naomi Prasad

Our siblings are our first rivals. Sibling rivalries can be short term, but some can last years. For those who have long term rivalries with their siblings, it may seem as if neutrality will never be reached. Yet, there have been successful stories throughout centuries of siblings learning to love each other. Take my brother and I, for example. My dad has a growing list of all the fights my brother and I have gotten into; I’m sure your parents do, too.

The stories range from holding me hostage inside a blanket to yelling at me for breathing too loud, even though I had asthma. My brother and I have been through it all. As we both went to pursue our dreams in college, our fights began to die down. We actually learned to function normally around each other. Some other Union College peers have experienced the same phenomenon in their sibling relationships.

“I was really evil as a child. My older sister and I use to fight regularly,” junior nursing major Veena Tharayil says as she reminisces about her childhood. Tharayil thought it would be entertaining one day to chase her sisters around the house with kitchen knives until her sisters locked themselves in the bathroom.

Although she thought she was being innocent with the knives, her sisters feared for their lives. As she sat with the knives next to her lap, Tharayil watched some television as she kept her ears open to listen for the door unlocking in the bathroom. As soon as she heard it open, she would chase them right back in with the knives by her side. For a good hour, this game of cat-and-mouse filled the house.

“I thought it was a joke,” Tharayil awkwardly explains.

Tharayil’s father worried that the three sisters would never grow out of their stage of fighting. “[But,] as high school started, we started to fight less and less,” Tharayil says. “Being away from them made me realize the qualities that I missed.”

As each one went to college they made more of an effort to keep in touch with each other. “We aren’t just sisters, we became friends.”

Tharayil’s relationship transition with her sisters is not only important but also typical of the college years. A Harvard University study states that having a close relationship with siblings during college years is crucial because it affects one’s emotional and physical well being by the age of 65. We can’t take advantage of our family and assume that we will always be there throughout each other’s lives. Making the effort to become friends with your siblings can make a lifetime of a difference in your future relationships with them. Another study suggests that the prime time of sibling relationship transitions is during the ages of 18-25.

Sophomore biology major Maureen Siahaan can also attest to the way college has changed her sibling relationship.

“We all love each other in our different ways, it’s just a different type of love,” Siahaan says.

Siahaan has three sisters and two brothers. Growing up in a small house often left Siahaan and her family feeling cramped and exhausted.

“We didn’t get along,” Siahaan remembers. “Melissa [the younger sister] was the bully. She manipulated my younger siblings. Imagine ‘Mean Girls,’ she was the Regina George.”

In the past two years that Siahaan has spent at Union, she has noticed a change in her relationship with all her siblings. “Matt and I have been become closer and it’s awkward. It’s a good type of awkward. Melissa is actually starting to get nicer and everything at home is different and the siblings are much nicer.”

It can be a little awkward at first to reach out, but so is making new friends. Make an effort to call your brother or sister up and reconnect. Make plans with them as you go home for breaks. It also wouldn’t hurt to apologize to your parents for the headaches caused by you.

Naomi is a junior studying chemistry and pre-med.