How to be a good long-distance sibling

Being a big sister is a huge part of who I am. I’m the oldest of four girls. I spent my first two years of college at home, so I got extra time to be with my family—I especially spent a lot of time with my baby sister, who’s 13 years younger than me. When I transferred to a college three hours away, I had to figure out how to navigate being a big sister without actually being there. And as I’ve moved into (eek!) adulthood, I’ve been able to use those long-distance sister skills as I settle into a new city. Here are my best tips for being the best long-distance sibling you can be.

Put in the effort to setting up regular contact

Moving and beginning your own independent life can be overwhelming, and it’s completely normal to throw your energies into your own personal start-up for a while. But once you’re settled, throw some of that energy into discovering how being a big sister will work now that you’re far away. It will take effort, but for me, continuing to be close with my siblings is worth it.

The internet is your friend

Let’s face it: our younger siblings are probably way more tech savvy than us. My littlest sister is going to be teaching me how to log into a hologram chat any day now. In the mean time, utilize Facetime, Google chat, Snapchat, Skype, what-have-you. Talking on the phone is nice, but seeing each others’ smiles and silly expressions will keep you feeling closer.

Get creative

My little sis and I play games in person, like Mad Libs and Storymatic. We still do when we get together, but we’ve figured out a new creative writing game for long distance: we work on ridiculous stories together in a Google drive doc. She writes a sentence, or a paragraph, and then I pick up where she left off. Our longest story was the saga of a kitten and an owl getting lost and meeting a troupe of really weird baby bunnies. We’re currently working the story of Jasmine the purple unicorn, who was born with a terrible curse. We write little notes to each other in parentheses and it’s pretty great. Totally steal this Google doc idea, or find another long-distance way to work on a creative project together. Making something together is a great way to feel close! And you’ll have a bunch of new inside jokes.

Visit when you can
This should be obvious but—visit! Or invite your sibling to hop on a plane/bus/train to come visit you. It feels awesome to share your new life, and if you have young siblings, you have a good excuse to do a bunch of fun kid stuff. I recommend children’s museums, a trampoline park, craft hour at your local library, etc. If your younger sibling is close to your own age, I recommend all your favorite haunts, plus a few places or activities you’ve been meaning to check out—it’s way more fun to try something new in your area with your sibling.

Share your faves
If you’ve just seen a good movie or read a great book, pass it along! And if your siblings recommend something, take the time to go see it, read it, or listen to it. Send each other funny websites or a great new webseries. Sharing something you both enjoyed will give you a ton to talk about and help you feel like you’re still doing things in the same space. I sent my whole family to see Inside Out and we got to have some fantastic, thoughtful conversation afterward. All the good memories!

Stay involved and up-to-date
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own life and drama, but remember your younger siblings have their own stuff going on. Are they in school, how’re their classes? What hobbies are they working on? How’re their friendships, their jobs, their pets? Being the best big sister means knowing what’s up with your younger siblings and helping or celebrating them. Or just listening to them. Sometimes just having an interested, invested big sister is enough.


A note to my little sister, my body confidence role model
All those things only sisters understand

[Image via ABC]

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