WHEN YOU’ RE NOT THE GOLDEN CHILD
How to cope when your sibling’s a star and you’re the support act.
We all swoon for Chris and Liam Hemsworth, but have you ever heard of their older brother Luke? Did you know when his brothers were still in school, he was trying to make it big in the acting world? Or what about Bella Hadid? Sure, she’s a successful model, but she’s always referred to as Gigi’s younger sister, whereas Gigi is just Gigi. Let’s be real, as much as our parents drive us crazy with their strict curfews (9pm, seriously?!) and ridiculous expectations (what’s wrong with a B+?), deep down, their approval is important to us. It’s understandable when you see them praising your sibling’s achievements and not your own, it can be pretty upsetting. “As teens, you often want independence, however you also want attention from your parents,” psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip (drkarenphillip. com) points out. “You want to be responsible, while at the same time cared for.”
Anyone who has a brother or sister knows the family home can be a constant battleground. One minute you’re bickering over the TV remote, the next minute it’s a fight over the last Tim Tam, and then, there are even times when you’re fighting over your parents’ attention. “If one sibling is gifted at something, it can make the other siblings feel less valued, as the parents may place additional attention on the gifted child,” says Dr Karen. “Any time attention is taken away from us and is not deemed equal, it feels unfair and that others are favoured.” DOLLY reader Alyssa*, 16, has always felt second best to her big brother, as everyone from their parents to teachers and family friends continuously
Npraises him for his sporting achievements, but praises her, well, seemingly never. “I feel like my brother is favoured because he has achieved more in his life at a young age than I have,” she says. “My parents always compare his accomplishments to mine and don’t recognise how much effort I put into my work and all of the successes I’ve achieved.” For Alyssa, the feeling of being overlooked is painful. “We have an award cabinet at home where we display our trophies and ribbons and it sucks because I have one trophy in there, while he has seven,” she continues. “They always brag about him to family and friends and I don’t even get a mention. “I’ve brought it up with my parents, but the topic has never been fully discussed. They thought I was being childish and immature.” Alyssa’s story is a common one, according to Dr Karen. “When you’re a teen, you’re finding your way, discovering who you are and how you fit into the world,” explains Dr Karen. “If you feel there is an imbalance [in attention], this can lead to a feeling of not being the favoured child.”
BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?
So how do you win your parents’ attention without coming across as immature? Well, according to Dr Karen, the solution lies with one simple word: communication. “Talk to your parents about your feelings,” she recommends. “Explain what it is you feel and why. It is also a good idea for you to tell your parents what you need from them in order to stop feeling this way.” We get you may be a tad hesitant to have this conversation as you don’t want to sound like a total diva, but Dr Karen says these feelings are perfectly normal and your parents will appreciate you being honest about your feels. “Above all, you need to be appreciated, trusted, complimented and noticed,” she says. “When this occurs, your self-esteem is lifted and these ‘favoured’ feelings can dissolve.”