The Younger Sibling Left Behind

What Parents Should Know About The Younger Child


Joy Maimoni

The author with her brother, now a freshman in college.

Giuliana Maselli, Lion's Roar Staff

When older siblings leave home and family roles begin to shift, many younger siblings are greatly affected.

When older siblings leave, the youngest siblings are more likely to be unhappy, and feelings of unhappiness might intensify with the siblings’ connection. Siblings in tense ties, however, felt a sense of failure.

For some siblings their older sibling leaving may be their first close loss in their life. Also, while it may take some time to adapt to this change, there may be chances of success. Siblings who used to rely on an older sibling may grow more self-reliant and take on new challenges, responsibilities, and hobbies.

The author with her brother, now a freshman in college. (Joy Maimoni)

They may also spend more time with their parents one-on-one. The pandemic has also had an impact on how younger siblings cope with the loss of an older sibling. Separation, loss, and anxiety can be increased by the public health crisis, especially when older siblings are departing after being quarantined with their families for several months. Quarantining together caused some families to reconnect, reestablish connections, and do things they would not have done otherwise and when an older sibling is suddenly gone after this time together, younger siblings can feel an even stronger sense of loss. It also has an impact on the entire household, even the dog.

It’s more complicated with siblings since, on the one hand, they’ll likely receive a lot more attention from their parents now. The opposite is learning that, no, they don’t want all of this attention.

As universities reopen in the light of the new COVID-19 outbreak, some are taking precautions such as prohibiting family members from staying in dorms, limiting the number of people on campus, and maintaining social distance. This can make the separation of a sibling even more difficult.

It’s easy for parents to get caught up in the whirlwind that results from an emptying nest. Of course, your college-bound teenager will need your support, but not at the cost of her siblings.

The children left are obviously affected when a sibling goes to college, but how they are affected varies from family to family.

There are some universal truths about the experience, regardless of how close the siblings are. First and foremost, the family dynamic is altered. Left-behind siblings often report that their parents take a renewed and more focused interest in their lives. Depending on the sibling’s perspective, this could be viewed as a positive or negative situation.

Younger siblings who are close in age to their older siblings often complain that their parents, who now have more time to focus on them, have put a newfound pressure on them to begin preparing for college.