In 2010, The New York Times published an article on sisterly love. According to various studies, having a sister makes people happier. People with sisters report feeling more optimistic about life. The article identified sisterly conversations as being the main contributor to contentment–sisterly conversations occur frequently and they range from the personal to the mundane.
Having a younger sister myself, I was not at all surprised to read these findings. After reading this article, I was led to contemplate the unique role of Sister in the family system. Below is a short list I compiled that speaks to the unique nature and benefits of having a sister:
- You and your sister have a shared experience together–you grow up with the same parents, attend the same schools, and have a shared sense of the familiar. Summed up, you both share the same sense of what Home means.
- Your sister serves as a confidante–she is someone you can confide in, share familial observations with, and she is someone you can be yourself with. She sees you in the vulnerability of your family life, yet unlike your parents, she can also see you in your academic and social settings. She sees the entire picture.
- Being a sister is a uniquely female role. Mother, wife, daughter, sister…these are feminine roles with very strong meaning attached to each. Sister is at once universal and deeply personal.
- If you are a sister, you get to define what the role looks like in your family, which can be totally empowering! Will you be the leader, the listener, the rule keeper, the confidante, the clown? You can be authentically yourself while forging a meaningful bond with your siblings.
Anyone who knows me in my personal life understands that my sister is my best friend. While we’ve always been close, there was a point during our teenage years when we had a leveling conversation with each other. We were trying to figure out how to transition from the typical younger-older sibling dynamic to true friendship. During the course of our discussion we identified what it would take for us to stay genuinely bonded with each other. We’ve stayed committed to those goals ever since.
I encourage all young women who are sisters to think about this: how can I be the best sister to my siblings? That will likely mean something different for each one of you. It might mean involving your parents more, it could involve letting go of jealousies and competition, or providing acts of service. Whatever it might entail, start today! Your role as sister is unique, powerful, and long lasting.