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Cultivating Adult Sibling Relationships

Updated: Dec 24, 2019

Last year, my client joined her mother and her mother’s first cousins (all in their late 50s and 60s) for dinner. After listening to the teasing banter for a while, she realized that even in our 60s, we fall into patterns of behavior with our siblings that were formed in adolescence. Sure, the joking keeps us humble, but it can hurt just as much at 62 as it did at 12.

She was secretly relieved to see it, because even though she and her three siblings are 20+ years their junior, they catch themselves doing the same thing. A few years ago, they noticed that they treated their friends much better than they treated each other.

So they decided to fix it. They needed to, because they will eventually inherit family business responsibilities, and they know how ugly that can get. As my client said, “When Grandpa died, Dad and his siblings reverted to their adolescent selves, but instead of wielding sticks and stones, they wielded lawyers. The result was horrible for everyone except the lawyers.”

So, one Sunday a month, my client and her siblings have a “G4 Summit,” to lay the groundwork for how they will make important family decisions in the future. It’s simply a conference call. They have an agenda. They take meeting minutes.

And it’s working. Over time, they have created a newfound trust within their generation that didn’t exist before. They feel closer to each other; more aligned. There’s a respect and caring that used to show up as teasing and impatience. They’re becoming the family they want to be.

Cathy Carroll is the founder of Legacy Onward, Inc. which provides leadership coaching for family businesses. Growing up as a third generation member of a family business, Cathy enjoyed a 20-year corporate career before leading her father’s manufacturing business. Legacy Onward is dedicated to helping family businesses achieve greater profits through greater performance.

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