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Conflict with siblings

Everyone disagrees with each other at times. Occasional arguments are part of living in a family. But, constant fights with your siblings can be stressful and unnecessary.


One or both of you could lose your temper and become intentionally hurtful, even violent. There are things you can do to defuse tense situations and help bring about a compromise.


Why you fight with siblings


Siblings often know exactly which of your buttons to push. Other factors that can make it harder to get along include:


  • differences in age
  • differences in values
  • jealousy or feelings of insecurity, eg feeling one of you is favoured more by your parents or guardians
  • lack of privacy
  • having step brothers or step sisters
  • competitiveness, for example with sport or study.


What you can do


How you handle conflict with your siblings can depend on how old you and they are and what you’re fighting about.


  • If it’s something minor, like teasing, discourage it by ignoring them or laughing it off. 
  • Walking away and counting to ten can be a good way to cool off and avoid saying something that could make the situation worse.
  • Talk to someone outside the situation. Getting a different perspective from a friend, teacher or counsellor for example can help you understand why there might be conflict and work out strategies to improve things.
  • Get some distance. While this might not solve the problem, it can be good to get some head space. This might be by exercising, chilling out with your friends, or just taking time out in your room.


Talk it out

Talking to your brother or sister about problems you’re having might seem nerve-racking. But it can be a great way of coming up with a solution, particularly if you’re the same age. If your brother or sister is younger and seems determined to make your life difficult, talking it through with a parent and possibly getting some time away might be helpful.


Tips for talking


  • Find a time when neither of you is angry, stressed out or tired and somewhere you can talk without being interrupted.
  • At the dinner table (after you’ve eaten) can be a good time to mention what’s on your mind. That way a parent or guardian will be able to mediate.
  • Be willing to compromise and have a number of options you’re willing to accept.
  • Don’t make it personal. Avoid sarcasm, personal comments and name-calling, an approach that can make things worse. Instead, stick to comments about how you feel.
  • Be honest. If there’s something they do which really pisses you off, tell them (while still trying to avoid making it personal.)
  • Listen to what they have to say and accept their point of view is as valid as yours (something that’s not easy to do.)
  • Once a compromise is reached, stick to it. This might mean agreeing to follow it for a while before talking about it again.
  • If talking to them in person seems too difficult, write a letter or email explaining how you feel.


Agreeing to disagree


If you can’t find a compromise, you might have to “agree to disagree” with your brother or sister.

It’s up to you to make your own decisions, based on your own experience, beliefs and values.


Violence and safety


If you’re being physically or sexually abused and feel unsafe, it’s important to tell someone. This could be a parent or a counsellor, or contact the CARI (Children at Risk in Ireland) Foundation helpline on 1890 924 567 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5.30pm).