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4 Steps to Better Conversations with Your StudentJennifer Sullivan
Not too long ago, my kids made mac and cheese together. Homemade, from a recipe, not from a box.
Unremarkable, maybe? I assure you, it wasn't. You see, my college sophomore and college senior have always loved each other as brother and sister, but experienced the usual ups and downs through the teen years. Somehow, last spring during the early months of the stay-home days, they found their way to meaningful discussion about their relationship. Little by little it was clear that a new connection was forming between them. Sort of like a fresh start fitting for this still somewhat new year.
Many times, our kids go through stages in which they get on each other's nerves, or are just in vastly different places. When mine were very little, they played together a lot. Yes, big sister often dominated their games, and perhaps that caused built-up resentment inside of little brother that he didn’t know how to respond to back then. And yes, little brother often received more attention, and this left big sister feeling pushed aside.
More of this was visible during the tween and teen years when they clashed more — mostly over little things like one of them being too loud or just craving a little more of their own space. But you could feel there was something deeper beneath this — those feelings from when they were little. And while their current relationship is a work in process, the open communication taking place is really clearing the way forward.
Of course, some siblings may face more serious issues or challenges to their relationship. Such instances might benefit from mediation, either from parents or a professional (family therapist).
So, my kids were making mac and cheese. As they prepped and cooked, I heard the coaching and conversation. It was sweet to hear them connecting, with kindness and ease. It took me back to their early childhood days when they’d invent all kinds of games to play together. How amazing to see my daughter encouraging and patiently explaining, and my son enjoying it all and doing a really great job.
More recently, when I casually mentioned that my son was making orange chicken for dinner in his college apartment, my daughter smiled and immediately texted him to hear more about it. You may be thinking — “no big deal.” Except it kind of was. My kids talking just because and being interested in what the other was doing was a welcome change and very special.
Since then, it’s grown clear to me that they are slowly becoming friends once more.
I now share the gift of proofreading my son’s essays and papers with my daughter. And while I’m still a resource for certain things, like "how do you make a curry sauce" and "what cleaner is best for bathroom tile," my kids turn to each other for advice and reassurance. I hear they have a FaceTime planned to both clean their stoves (!), and this little thing really makes me smile.
When they were both home for a long stretch over winter break, they took each other into consideration as they made their various plans. My daughter shared pictures of new shower caddy options before buying one, and her brother didn’t respond with “I don’t care” or "why do we need that anyway." Instead he appreciated her thoughtfulness and told her so. On another occasion, he reciprocated with genuine caring by relaying that he would watch TV and play video games in his room so he wouldn’t “annoy her” by being loud in the family room. This act of kindness was not lost on my daughter, and it certainly wasn’t lost on me.
No matter what state your big kids’ relationship is in, there is always hope — and a very good chance that they will find their way to friendship.
Big choices and big changes are on the horizon — don’t miss this important guide!