Calavitta family picture. Featured far left is Samuel Calavitta and Monica Calavitta, parents of (from left to right) Back row: Ciena, 26, Gino, 23, Genoa, 21, Avi, 17, Antonio, 24. Middle row: Catania, 19, Angelo, 14 Front row: Macario, 12, Marcello, 9 Courtesy of the Calavitta family.

How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Your Siblings

Sharing bedrooms, resources and even the back seat of the family car with siblings can be an exercise in frustration for many teens but imagine having to share that space with eight other siblings. For BYMS eighth grader, Angelo Calavitta, that is an everyday reality with sibling ranging from age 9 to 27. The Matador Messenger brings you the seventh article in the “How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship” series with your siblings.

“We often find ourselves arguing over what’s yours or theirs,” explained Calavitta. “With 10 of us total, there is not a lot of space in the house so you can only imagine the many different ways this can create friction.”

Sibling relationships can last a lifetime and so can the tensions. Resolving the day to day fighting, bickering, and arguing not only could make life easier but could turn a sibling relationship into a friendship.  With this in mind the Matador Messenger brings you the latest in the “How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship” series with your siblings.

According to a recent Matador Messenger sponsored Survey Monkey of 100 BYMS students, approximately 50% of participants indicated that they have conflicts with their siblings three or more days per week, 30% indicated they have conflicts with siblings three days or less per week and 20% indicated they hardly ever have conflicts with their siblings.

In  the survey 40% of respondents  indicated that the most common conflict with siblings was “being annoyed by their siblings teasing them”, 20% felt “sharing is an issue”, and 20% believe “miscommunication as a cause for the most common conflicts.”

When a conflict arises, 22% of BYMS student participants explained that they don’t try to resolve conflicts, 26% try to resolve them whenever there is a conflict and 52% resolve conflicts occasionally in a number of ways.

Several ways the participants indicated that they resolve conflicts include compromising (7%), talking through the problem (8%), parental interference (22%), and maintaining space (19%). The most common way for a conflict to be resolved, according to 100 BYMS student participants, is to use a mixture of these and maintain space until they and their sibling are ready to talk out the issue or ignore the problem until it goes away.

According to experts, each of the methods can be very effective. “If you are having a disagreement with your sibling, you both need to learn to compromise and accommodate each other. “Try to divide things fairly and evenly and understand both sides of the dispute,” suggests mental health experts at the University of Michigan in their online guide, “Your Child Development & Behavior Resources: A Guide to Information & Support for Parents.”

Respecting each other’s space can also prevent conflicts, but what can you do if your sibling is unwilling to follow this consistently? According to the, “Healthy Lifestyle Guide for Parents”, you should be “honest and open” about the conflict and be prepared to walk away until tempers cool, giving a parent or older sibling time to mediate and re-set the “ground rules” and consequences when one sibling intrudes on another.

This method can be used whenever a conflict with a sibling arises. “Stepping back, taking a deep breath, not escalating the conflict further, and identifying and avoiding different triggers for your sibling’s anger” can help you better understand some of the underlying causes of any conflict, stay on good terms with that sibling, and find a more productive moment to resolve an issue, according to D’Arcy Lyness, PhD, at

But what if the conflicts have become physical and abusive with a sibling? According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, “If you are always the victim, and your sibling is always the aggressor, and the roughness and violence increases over time, this indicates an abusive situation” you should immediately speak with a parent, a school counselor, and or an abuse hotline which can give you advice and even contact authorities to help you.

Avoiding sibling conflicts may also be as simple spending more time with a sibling and doing something you both enjoy, creating  positive experiences to to build a better foundation for friendship and potentially lessening the time focused on fighting, according to a study from the University of Illinois.

“That’s because these researchers found that it’s actually the amount of positive interactions siblings experience which determines the quality of their relationship — regardless of the number of fights they have,” explains.

For Angelo Calavitta, spending positive time with his siblings is one of the advantages of a larger family. “I am never bored because I always have someone to talk to,” he explained. “There is always someone to support and listen to my concerns or ideas.”

Developing positive relationships with a sibling can also lead to the potential of a lifelong friendship and a model for creating friendships with others.

“Learning how to deal with conflict positively when you’re young can set the scene for a positive relationship with your brother or sister for a long time to come, and help you learn to get along with other people outside the family,” added the Women and Teens Health Network at

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