National Siblings Day (NSD) was founded in 1999 by Claudia Evart, a New York resident who lost both of her siblings at an early age. She organized the first NSD at the same time she launched the Siblings Day Foundation, a non-profit organization with the sole mission of promoting and honoring NSD. The purpose of NSD is to set aside one day each year for everyone who has brothers and sisters to celebrate the unique bond they share.
Evart chose the date because it’s an important day in her life: it’s the birthday of her late sister, Lisette.
In 2000, President Clinton formally recognized NSD, as did President Bush in 2008. President Obama, in 2016, released this special statement:
A Message from The President
March 18, 2016
“The diverse traditions and experiences that make up our lives at home become the foundations of who we are as people, and the bonds of family have remained at the heart of America’s story since our earliest days. Through life’s many chapters, brothers and sisters, and even friends who are just as close, know the power unconditional love and friendship hold to lift us up, make us our best selves, and help us reach for our higher aspirations.”
Last year at this time, we wrote an article to commemorate National Siblings Day that was closely aligned with our company mission, which is to offer the best available treatment to teenagers struggling with emotional, behavioral, and/or substance use disorders. That post was about how to handle a specific type of sibling rivalry that can arise when one sibling is in residential treatment, and the other – or others – are not.
It’s a tricky situation – and the tips we offer in that article are still valid today.
This year, however, everything is different.
At Home During COVID-19
This year we all face the same thing: the coronavirus pandemic.
For families with teenage siblings, COVID-19 guidelines probably mean everyone is at home, trying to figure out how to make life work under strict social distancing, shelter-in-place, and other public health rules.
We’ll get to those families in a moment.
For grown adults with siblings, this is a time when – if you don’t live near or with your siblings – you’re calling them every day to check-in. You want to know how they are, how your in-laws are, and how your nieces and nephews are handling the whole situation.
We advise you to keep doing that. Call them every day. Call them to tell them you love them. To tell them you’re thinking about them, and to let them know you’re there if they need you. Call them to tell them a joke.
Just call them, even twice.
Staying connected is important during this time.
We’re all physically separated, but we’re not – despite the phrase that everyone is tired of hearing – socially separated.
We’re all more connected than ever: technology makes it so. That’s why we advise everyone to take advantage of our amazing technology and stay in touch with loved ones. On National Siblings Day, start with your siblings – then call everyone else.
Then do the same thing tomorrow – and as often as you see fit until we flatten the curve and emerge on the other side.
Now, about those families with teenage siblings at home.
Teens: Gratitude Starts at Home
Millions of people around the world are lonely and scared. They may be in Barcelona, Spain, unable to go out for anything but food, medicine, or walking the dog.
In Spain, they’re not allowed to go out to exercise.
They may be in France, buckling down as the peak of their curve approaches.
They may be in Italy: we all know how things are going there.
Or they may be in New York City, where COVID-19 is hitting hard. We see Governor Cuomo on tv every day, giving us updates on what they need and when.
During this time, we advise teenagers to think about those cities, think about those people – especially those who may be sheltering-in-place alone, then take a look around their homes and give thanks for the people they see.
Starting with their siblings.
That’s right. Starting with your siblings, a.k.a. the people who:
- Put a piece of tape across the shared bedroom floor to clearly define “their side” from “your side.”
- Did the same thing in the backseat of the car during road trips
- Actually measured a bite-sized Snickers into two equal halves before splitting it, to make sure everything was fair and even.
- Flushed the toilet while you were in the shower
- Blamed everything on you
- Never got busted when you told on them
You may be stuck at home with them now, but look at it this way: you have someone to talk to. Someone to hug. Someone to share your fears with in the middle of the night. And unlike all the people who live alone, you have someone to go for a walk with – without having to stay six feet away.
Most of all, we want teenagers to be thankful for the love in their lives.
Whether they realize it right now or not, their siblings represent that love.
And yes, they do represent love, family, connection and commitment.
They represent all that – even though they are literally the most annoying people on earth.
Angus is a writer from Atlanta, GA who writes about behavioral health, adolescent development, education, and mindfulness practices like yoga, tai chi, and meditation.