Trying to be the "good" older Indian sibling
Updated: Jul 22, 2022
There aren’t many articles on what it’s like to be an older Indian sister…so I’m going to do my best to explain what older sisters have to go through in the Indian community.
There are many amazing things that come with being an older sister. It’s so comforting to watch your younger sibling grow up and come to you for life advice. You want to have their free-spiritedness while watching them dance to bollywood music in the basement. You want to be the best role model for your younger sibling(s) and so you always check yourself to make sure you’re doing the mature and right things. When your younger sibling is hurting, you hurt with them.
However, the pressure of being a “good” older sister can take a toll. You always wonder if you’re doing your best and not being too much of a parent. As the older sibling in an Indian household it has felt like you have to let the younger sibling get their way all the time because they aren’t as “mature” as you. You feel like sometimes you have to sacrifice your happiness and the things you want to do to either babysit, or help your parents. But you can’t say anything because if you do your parents will invalidate you by saying “They are younger than you, just go along with it please, I don’t want another meltdown.” Every time you don’t like the way your sibling treats you the excuse has always been their age and maturity. This ends up being detrimental to the younger sibling’s psychological development when they are adults, however that will be discussed in a different article.
Being an older sibling usually makes you grow up at a more accelerated rate than your younger sibling, but it also allows you to be more independent and self-sufficient. Older siblings tend to have to compromise and they’re better at going with the flow than their younger siblings when they’re adults (click on this article to look at benefits of being an older sister).
However, what can sometimes happen in adulthood is the same pattern that was created in childhood. Both siblings are mature, and yet the older sibling has to keep making themselves smaller for the younger sibling when conflict ensues. This can make the older sibling build up resentment and contempt if the older sibling doesn’t express/process their grievances. The older sibling thinks “is this just how it’s going to be for the rest of my life?”, which creates incredibly dysfunctional dynamics within the family system.
It’s tough to balance being a sister versus a parent to your younger sibling, which is often the case in Indian households. If we actually were treated like siblings then brown parents wouldn’t let the younger sibling always get their way because it’s the “easier” thing to do. Indian parents want to pretend that everything is fine and want to minimize conflict as fast and easy as possible. They don’t want to allow siblings to have difficult and emotional conversations because they know that usually the older sibling will give in if they show that they’re stressed.
However, when the older adult sibling doesn’t allow the younger adult sibling to get their way, mayhem ensues. It is at this point that parents need to sometimes stand up for the older sibling or let the argument work between the siblings.
But an even better strategy would be to start young and allow the siblings to process their frustrations with each other, the parent, and a therapist so that the same pattern doesn’t continue in adulthood. Parenting is tough, and no one does it perfectly, however older siblings are usually the strong and silent ones as a child, and when they start to get their voice as they mature they are silenced again and told to compromise.