Sibling Rivalry Among Teens
Sibling relationships change over time and often go through ups and downs. One reason children sometimes do not get along is because they identify with each other so much. They feel that other people also identify them with each other. So at some ages the older children may be embarrassed by the younger ones. They may feel that the young ones' actions, even if they are developmentally normal, make the older kids look stupid. So a 17-year-old may feel a 14-year-old is just "so childish."
Younger siblings, on the other hand, may have difficulty because they feel jealous of what the older child is capable of doing and is allowed to do. There also could be some strain because of anticipation of what is to come. As a 14-year-old looks at a 17-year-old and the fact that he or she may be leaving home in a year, he or she may be worried and angry. The younger child may feel he or she will be deserted. In fact, there may be the feeling that the desertion has already started as the older child drives, dates and does more things away from the home.
Actually, young people at 14 and 17 are at different developmental stages. One is moving into to young adulthood while the other is still a young adolescent. That contrast can be a mismatch. But that situation may change in just a few years as they both move into similar life stages. The age gap will mean less and less as they get older.
Overall, it is helpful for parents to help siblings understand each other and what is normal for each developmental level. In preparation for separation as the older child finishes high school and moves on, it might be good to make plans for how the siblings can stay in touch and continue to support each other from a distance. But it is also possible that this is just a normal down period, and it will pass in time and with patience.