“I don’t hear her getting up in the morning and I don’t tell her ‘goodnight’ anymore. It’s little moments like these that make me miss her the most,” said Maya Goldenberg, 11, of her older sister and only sibling.
Goldenberg’s sister, like millions across the country, recently left for her freshman year of college. For Goldenberg, the parting meant losing a friend and a familiar ally. For others, it comes as a relief from a strained relationship or daily hassles.
“When Caroline [Bruns] left for college last year, I was expecting this huge shift in my life but it really only took me a day or two to adjust to not having her at home.
“When she left this year, it only felt unusual for about a day again,” said Hannah Bruns, 11, whose sister Caroline Bruns graduated from SHS in 2017.
Still, the departure of an older sibling after high school can potentially have an impact on family dynamics and the sibling left behind. Every relationship’s influencers make the following developments unpredictable, but some common insight can be helpful.
First and foremost, maintaining contact can uphold or even strengthen sibling relationships. It is important for older and younger siblings to call and/or message each other regularly outside of, say, a weekly family video chat with the departed child.
For instance, a study cited in a report published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that, in a sample of college students, sibling friendliness was positively correlated with contact.
“I text Caroline when I have something to tell her and occasionally she will call me when she walks to classes or other activities that I will answer occasionally if I feel like talking to her,” Hannah Bruns said.
In addition, the autumn after an older sibling’s high school graduation often alters younger siblings’ relationships with their parents.
Some younger children, by nature of birth order, are used to having to fend for themselves, in which case newfound parental attention can be stressful.
Those used to attention may enjoy the change after feeling left out during the college application process.
Some universities are beginning to offer sibling programs during orientation or “family weekends” during the year, but these tend to focus on recruiting future students rather than aiding in family transitions.
In terms of feeling left out, the college- and career-bound sometimes lament missing the opportunity to watch the youngest children of their family grow up.
Those who are successful in their studies, careers, or general conquests after leaving home may also serve as a role model for those youngsters they left behind.
Above all, what happens in these situations is often unforeseeable; after all, it is not every day that we must say goodbye to someone with whom we have spent, in many cases, our entire lives.
“Before my sister left, I knew I would miss her, but I didn’t know how much. Now that she’s gone I notice her absence in so many more ways than I could have predicted,” Goldenberg said.