Family

How to reconnect with an estranged sibling

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Family

How to reconnect with an estranged sibling

Other than your parents, your siblings are some of the few people in your life who can actively share in the joy and memories of your childhood. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why a relationship with a sibling can break off or become fraught with tension, resentment or anger.

When such intense feelings surround a relationship it can seem daunting to approach the rift with the intention of healing it -- but rebuilding your relationship with your sibling is possible.

We asked Kenya Thompson-Leonardelli, a registered psychologist based in Toronto, for her insights on how to approach a broken relationship with your sibling and how to start the healing process.

1. Put aside negative feelings before starting the conversation
If you're interested in mending the rift in your relationship, it's important to avoid using the opportunity to fix things as a forum to rehash old, negative feelings. In order to begin a constructive conversation, you'll have to set these feelings aside.

"I think that, because of feelings of hurt and anger, people so often feel it is the other person's responsibility to initiate contact," says Thompson-Leonardelli. "However, being able to get past those feelings far enough to start the conversation will go a long way toward beginning to heal the relationship."

2. Reach out in a personal way
When you are ready to reach out to your sibling, Thompson-Leonardelli recommends doing it in a personal way. Rather than passing the message along through another person, give your sibling a phone call or send them an email or even a text message. This initial contact should only be used as a way to set up a time to meet, however, as it's best to start the conversation about your relationship in person.

"I don't recommend having any real discourse over text or email as they tend to lead to miscommunications," Thompson-Leonardelli explains.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover three more great tips for reconnecting with an estranged sibling on page 2 3. Give your sibling time to adjust
If you're the one initiating contact, try to remember that this could be a lot of information for your sibling to digest at once -- especially if you've been estranged for months or even years.

"Giving your sibling time to adjust to the idea of getting back in touch may be important," says Thompson-Leonardelli. "You've had time to prepare for the idea of the engagement, but your sibling may need some time of his or her own."

Once you do reach out, be patient. "If you do make contact, understand that the other person may not be ready to reconnect, and that it may be best to give that person some time."

4. Don't place blame
In order for the conversation to move in a positive direction, do not focus on placing blame. This will only stall the mending of the relationship with your brother or sister.

"There are many different, simple and positive ways to start the conversation. I would avoid blaming statements and include something about your desire to improve the relationship first and foremost," says Thompson-Leonardelli. "I think the goal cannot be total agreement on everything, so leaving room for different perspectives may be very important."

"Remember that the larger goal of reconciliation with your sibling may often mean letting go of the concept of personally being right," she adds.

5. Consider family counselling or outside mediation
If you and your sibling are both comfortable with the idea of seeking outside help, speaking with a mediator could go a long way in helping the two of you move forward with your reconciliation. The mediator could be a family counsellor or even a family member -- however, a counsellor may serve as a more objective go-between.

"If you can start talking, it may be useful to get some outside mediation," says Thompson-Leonardelli. "I would suggest that person be someone outside of the situation," she advises.

It may seem intimidating to start mending a damaged relationship with a sibling. However, remaining positive as you start the process of reconnecting can help make the road a less bumpy one. Getting past whatever has come between you might take work, but it's very rewarding to have your siblings be a consistent part of your life, as well as your children's lives.

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How to reconnect with an estranged sibling

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