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To What Extent Should a Sibling Look Out for Another in Need?

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I have two sons, 17 and 19. The 17 year old has struggled throughout school with learning disabilities and since middle school has had to attend a school quite a distance away. He is now a senior in high school. His time in the public school was not a happy one and he didn’t have any strong relationships with peers when he left, so it was difficult to maintain friendships in our town. He has friends in school, but they live an hour away so they don’t get together outside of school often. My 19 year old is the opposite – always did well in school, has a very strong social circle that he does things with all the time. Gets up, goes out for coffee with them. Comes home for a period of time, then goes out again with them for some activity – basketball, watching a game on TV, playing XBox, etc. Then comes home for dinner, and goes out with them again after dinner for the evening. He is in college, so this is happening over the winter break and sometimes over summer when he is not working. While my older son is happily busy with friends, the younger one is sitting home, miserable and depressed because he doesn’t have anything to do or any friends to hang out with. He is very shy, and despite our attempts to help him make friends locally, it hasn’t happened. He does work over the summer, which helps, but can’t during the school year because of the distance he travels to school. The younger one would love it if the older one would choose to spend some time with him, and they do get along well when they are together. We have talked to my older son about spending time with his brother, and he agrees, but never makes the time to do it. How much should we push this? I don’t want to create animosity between them by forcing the older one to hang out with his brother once in a while instead of his friends. I find myself getting angry at my older son that he doesn’t see how sad his brother is and step in to help. Of course, my husband and I would love to spend time with the 18 year old but that’s the last thing he wants! (From the USA)

To What Extent Should a Sibling Look Out for Another in Need?

Answered by on -


  I admire your desire to get your boys together, but if it isn’t happening with the recommendation you may want to think about a regular family gathering or, perhaps, have your husband initiate an outing with the 3 of them. It may be that the bonding may take some nudging from mom and dad — or just dad to help launch it.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

To What Extent Should a Sibling Look Out for Another in Need?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). To What Extent Should a Sibling Look Out for Another in Need?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 12 Jan 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.