WHEN YOU’ RE NOT THE GOLDEN CHILD

How to cope when your sib­ling’s a star and you’re the sup­port act.

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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.”

SIB­LING WARS

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.”

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