The Golden Child Narrative in Sibling Estrangement

The Golden Child is certainly a subject of interest for a great deal of us experiencing sibling estrangement. For those new to this, the Golden Child is the person most favored and well looked upon in the family. They are the ones that typically get the most praise, and the least amount of criticism from parental figures.

And what happens when parents carry on like this, is that this creates a false sense of grandeur that invariably boosts the child’s ego to disproportionate levels. For those within the family that see this game, they can invariably become reactive to this, and push back against what they perceive as being unjust treatment. Others can simply shut down, not wanting to draw negative attention to themselves. And still, others can overcompensate by trying to get their parent’s attention and approval even moreso.

This last way of coping can feed into creating an unhealthy competition with their siblings, especially the Golden Child who can see the other sibling as a threat. When this happens, they can often scold the other sibling, or downplay their achievements in order to highlight theirs.

And this is where there is a risk of going from a typical sibling rivalry to the inability to make room for one another. The Golden Child will sooner or later recognize their power position within the family. And if parents didn’t stop this early on, they can, consciously or not, end up fostering it.

What this ends up doing is it can lead us into feeling depleted, drained, apprehensive, unsafe, and unfulfilled within a family structure, not to mention having a poor self-image of ourselves. Sooner or later, life intervenes, and we end up leaving home as we grow to become adults. This is where we can finally get to define ourselves differently than within our family. Though this process can start earlier, by identifying with peers, it’s the major life step of moving out that casts us into the real world, and can help us to understand just what we now hold to be true within us.

Our experiences as adults give us more power to understand just what type of game was happening, given that we can hear about other people’s upbringing, and get exposed to what is typical as opposed to what is not. It’s precisely when we become adults that we understand just to what level we can now choose to engage with our sibling, or not. Or, in any case, attribute responsibility to their behavior back onto them, if they’ve chosen to cut us off.

In any case, this can serve us well in the future for when we get together as a family, and interact with our sibling. We can all end up falling back into our old roles, if we’re not careful.

But once we start to understand these dynamics at play, we can begin to choose to stop the tape, and act in a different manner. Much more as a strong healthy adult, and less like a child that was seeking validation. Food for thought, in case we have to interact with the Golden Child, as an adult.

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