Trying to keep this short, the main question is really in the title..


My sister and I have a conflict which began about eight months ago, and I am currently not talking to her. We're both in our 20's, financially independent and have our own apartments away from home.

I don't have a great relationship with my parents at the moment. On several occasions my parents have expressed support for her on this issue and ... not-support for me. (For what it's worth, I feel that most of the disapproval comes from incomplete information on their side and the fact that, unlike my sister, I no longer follow their religion - not because my choices are objectively wrong.)

Recently there was an attempt at a family get-together and both my sister and I cancelled (independently of each other, but at least on my end as a result of this conflict). When I told my mother she gave me a lecture. She's told me several times I need to talk to my sister and "figure it out". (I tried, it didn't end well, which is why I'm not talking to her now.)

Main question

As a kid, it seems reasonable to bring your parents in as mediators. "Mooom, she's being mean!" and then mom says who's right and makes you apologize and make up.

As an adult, I've avoided the subject with them. It seems gossipy at best. For instance I wouldn't involve a mutual friend, because I'm sure it would make them uncomfortable and it's not fair to throw them in the middle of it. So why would I do that to my parents! In contrast, from what my mother has told me, my sister confides in her and has talked to her about her side of this conflict.

So my question is what is a parent's role in sibling conflicts, when the siblings are independent adults? What's appropriate to talk to them about? How do I deal with my sibling telling them all about their side of it?

2 Answers 2


I have a couple older kids & little ones. I also am one of a larger family with many siblings that has had serious conflicts as adults.

I think for my kids I would try to act. I would. I would do it more formally, like offering to pay for a mediator, etc, but I also have a good relationship with them, so it may be better received. When my siblings have had rifts, it impacts all of us deeply. It is disruptive to all family life (meaning extended family, gatherings, etc). People will opt to not attend, or they will avoid one another & make things tense or awkward and it is hard on all the people that love them, not just them.

I also believe that every situation is different and every family has it's own situation that will change things. I am not sure I would feel I had a right to assert an effort to intercede if I otherwise wasn't a positive good presence in their lives. I can tell you though as a parent, I love my children more than I love myself. If I could not have them all together in one room it would pain me. If they were unkind & unloving toward one another, that would hurt me. I have tried to raise them so that they can allow one another boundaries to be who they are and make their own choices and just have one another's back when life kicks you. I only have two grown now though so I can't say how well that has worked quite yet. I am hoping it goes better than it has for my siblings. They have had fall outs that have lasted years at times and it's very hard when you love both parties and you know there is nothing you can do to fix it.

I think as a parent to adult children, you better earn your way into their lives by being respectful, kind, considerate, etc. You have to shift the way you interact, stop trying to assert your ideas & allow them space to do their thing without feeling like they need your approval. If your parents are loving & kind & if being around them feels good, you will then be likely to care how it makes them feel when a rift exists. If however, they are pushy, critical and don't respect your boundaries, you likely would find any effort to mend things with your sister as an inappropriate intrusion. That is why I say each family is different. I think it is. I think in some families it's reasonable for parents to continue to lead the adult children in how to fix issues within siblings, at other times I think the parents are in no position to attempt that and haven't earned your trust that they are impartial, as it clearly sounds in your case.

  • Can't upvote on this account, but thanks for your perspective! You are right, I don't trust my parents to be impartial in this matter, as from the beginning they've shown they favor my sister over me in it. They basically forced me to tell them what happened with this in March, but if it's changed their perspective on it I haven't heard anything. I already felt duped into sharing that much, and if it doesn't make a difference I'm not inclined to share anything more. Not the first time for that, and they've done some other things in the past which have seriously eroded my trust in them.
    – user29147
    Aug 6, 2017 at 12:59

The answer is going to vary with the parent; this is my opinion as a parent of now adult, financially independent, married children.

...I wouldn't involve a mutual friend, because I'm sure it would make them uncomfortable and it's not fair to throw them in the middle of it.

Your parents are in the middle of it, especially if an attempt at a family get-together fails because of a situation between your sibling and you. Your parents are suffering (trust me) because of your feud.

It's hard for a parent to let go of 'parenting', but clearly, at your age, there are a lot of things they shouldn't try to control, e.g. how you spend your money, where you live, who you date, what you believe, etc.

However, if there is a rift that significant between you and your sister, I think a parent not only has the right, but has the obligation to try to help you two fix it if possible. Not every parent feels this way. I know parents who've stayed out of their kids feuds. I know parents who've watch anything from pettiness to back-stabbing hatred fester between two siblings. I don't understand it myself. (It's possible that my profession has something to do with it. As a physician, I'm accustomed to trying to fix problems of a vary wide variety.)

If your sister is toxic to you, they should support you in your desire not to be with her and be subjected to her toxicity. But it would help them cope with this situation if you were perfectly clear on the nature of her offenses. It's not gossip when it involves them, too. Also, they've already heard one side of the story, and your mother's support of your sister and not you should not be misplaced, but how can she be fair and balanced if she only has one side of the story?

The bottom line is that I would intervene as a parent. I would ask (read: politely demand) to be told the whole story from both of my children separately, then decide how to proceed (meeting between the two of you plus an outside mediator, or between you two with a parent mediator.) Because grudges aren't healthy for people, and I want my children to be healthy and happy and loved. Not many grudges are worth keeping, especially when they affect the whole family.

I'm not judging you here. Some 'grudges' are worth keeping, but I wouldn't call them grudges. I'd call them keeping a safe distance from toxic people. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in families.

  • Yeah, on the call my mom said how upset she was over it, and all I could say was "me too". Back in March they basically forced me to tell them everything, so they know everything but my side of the last conversation I had with my sister (which happened a week later). That's when I told my sister everything, in hopes she would understand why her actions hurt me. Instead she doubled down on it. Since then my feelings haven't changed, so I don't have anything new to say, and I still don't want to be around her, knowing now how she feels about me.
    – user29147
    Aug 6, 2017 at 13:22
  • If that makes her "toxic", well, they haven't supported me yet and I doubt sharing the last conversation would change that. She's tried to text me trivial things since and I mostly ignore them because frankly I find it insulting to pretend everything's fine. I think my parents would rather I "compromise" by accepting her rug-sweeping because that's how my family usually handles conflicts, but I don't find that acceptable here.
    – user29147
    Aug 6, 2017 at 13:22
  • As a side note it's funny you mention "who you date" because on two occasions they ordered a sibling to break up with someone (one during freshman year of college, one during their "gap year" before college). I didn't become a "heathen" and date someone they disliked until grad school so they couldn't force me to then, but I did still rely on them for a couple things financially and they manipulated me through those. So there are a lot of things I don't talk to them about anymore.
    – user29147
    Aug 6, 2017 at 13:27
  • @EmC - Although it's not really glaring, I understand this to be toxic to you. Dealing with conflict is difficult for many people; why that is mystifies me, because I see dealing with conflict as healthy and necessary for significant relationships. Sweeping transgressions under the rug for the sake of getting along isn't healthy, but it's doable if it doesn't happen all the time. It results in a loss of trust and intimacy, though. You know the nature of her offense(s), I don't. It's your call. Your parents are asking you to sacrifice to keep the peace with your sister (who sounds immature.)... Aug 6, 2017 at 13:47
  • 1
    They should be asking your sister to come clean and admit her error(s) and how they affect you as well. Aug 6, 2017 at 13:50

You must log in to answer this question.