When kids go away to college, siblings left behind adjust to a new household


Mary Monaco, 12, a seventh-grader, chats online with her brother, Michael Monaco, 18, a freshman at The College of William & Mary. Their mother, Lorraine Monaco, pops in to say hello. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

“Some children genuinely miss older siblings, even if they have trouble admitting it. But many middle kids savor being on top of the sibling stack, even if only until Thanksgiving break. And the youngest kids rejoice at not having to compete for mirror time in the bathroom, keys to the car or total control of the television remote,” writes reporter Jenna Johnson.

Some colleges, having noticed that it’s not just parents who miss a child who’s left the nest, have expanded “parents weekend” to “family weekend” and include programs for siblings during student orientation.

Skype, e-mail and text messages can help siblings stay in touch, Johnson notes, but the time apart can really help younger children come out of their older sibling’s shadow.

From Johnson’s story: “Suddenly, the big dog is gone,” said Marshall Duke, a psychology professor at Emory University. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s like pruning a flower garden. ... You trim back a bush, and the flowers behind it can now blossom.”

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