Being a middle child can be tough. Do you know what’s also tough? Being an adult middle child. Sure, we know it’s not as hard as it used to be – we’re no longer fighting for attention with our siblings and not getting hand-me-downs as often. But some residual effects of being the middle child still linger well into our adult lives. So, in this blog post, we will talk about the middle-child syndrome in modern-day adult life.
Feelings of Neglect
The forgotten child. We’ve all felt like it at one point or another. As a middle child, those feelings can be more prevalent. We’re stuck in the middle, often feeling like we don’t get enough attention from our parents or siblings. These feelings can carry into adulthood, resulting in an overwhelming need to be seen and heard. It can make us feel like we’re constantly fighting for recognition.
Being a people pleaser is a common trait of middle children. We’re used to compromising and trying to keep everyone happy. This can be a great trait, but it can also lead to an inability to say “no” and a fear of confrontation. It’s important for middle children to recognize when they’re sacrificing their own needs for others and to learn when to put their own needs first.
Middle children often crave independence. We’ve always had to share our space and things with our siblings, so having a little time and space to ourselves can be refreshing. This love of independence can carry into adulthood, and as a result, middle children can often be strong, independent individuals.
As middle children, we’re often the mediator in family conflicts. We’re used to taking on the role of the peacemaker, trying to keep the peace between family members. While this can be a great trait, it can also lead to bottling up emotions and not expressing our true feelings. It’s important for middle children to recognize when they’re sacrificing their own needs to keep the peace.
Being a Trailblazer
As middle children, we often have to pave our own way. We’re not the first child, and we’re not the baby of the family. We have to figure things out for ourselves. This can lead to adventure and a drive to try new things. As adults, middle children can often be trailblazers, willing to take risks and try things others might shy away from.
How to support the middle child
As a middle child, I can attest that we often feel overlooked or lost in the shuffle. This feeling can carry over into adulthood, leaving some middle children unsupported or forgotten. As a parent or family member, knowing how to support the family’s middle child (or children), regardless of age, is important. So, to all the parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings out there, let’s dive into the conundrum of how to support your adult middle child.
Acknowledge them: Sometimes, a person needs to feel seen and heard. This is especially true for middle children who may feel overshadowed by their siblings. Make a conscious effort to acknowledge your middle child’s accomplishments and milestones. Whether it’s a promotion at work or their knitting club’s annual showcase, show genuine interest and praise them for their hard work. It can be as simple as a congratulatory text or taking them out for a celebratory drink. This will go a long way in making them feel validated and supported.
Create an open line of communication: Middle children are often known for their peacemaking abilities and ability to see both sides of an argument. This means they may shy away from confrontation or expressing their needs, so it’s important to create a safe and open line of communication with your adult middle child. This can be as simple as checking in on them regularly or having a weekly phone call. Let them know you are there to listen to them without judgement and that their thoughts and feelings matter.
Celebrate their individuality: It’s not uncommon for middle children to feel like they are constantly compared to their siblings. As a result, they may feel like they need to live up to certain expectations or push down their own interests and passions. Help your adult middle child break free from this cycle by celebrating their individuality. Encourage them to explore their own interests and hobbies, even if they differ from what their siblings or parents enjoy. Attend their art show, take a cooking class with them, or support their decision to pursue a new career path. Let them know you appreciate their unique qualities and that being different is good.
Make time for them: In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As a result, we may neglect to make time for the people we love, including our middle children. It’s crucial to carve out dedicated one-on-one time with your adult middle child. This can be as simple as grabbing lunch together or taking a weekend getaway. Use this time to catch up, bond, and show them they are your life’s priority.
Encourage their independence: Middle children may feel like they are constantly in the shadows of their siblings or parents. As a result, they may struggle with their sense of independence or self-reliance. As a parent or family member, it’s important to encourage your adult middle child to break free from this notion. Support their decision to buy their own home, pursue a new career path, or take that solo trip they’ve always dreamed of. Let them know you believe in their abilities and support their quest for independence.
Managing Relationships as an Adult Middle Child
Being a middle child can feel tough. You can feel neglected, overlooked, and stuck between your older sibling, who enjoys bossing you around and your younger sibling, who gets all the attention. Growing up, you were probably in the middle seat on car journeys. Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean the drama of siblinghood is behind you. Sibling relationships can be even more complicated as adults. So I’d like to share some tips on how to manage your sibling relationships as an adult.
- Accept your role and embrace it.
Accept your role in the family hierarchy. You’re not the oldest, and you’re not the youngest. You’re in the middle, and that’s okay. Embrace it. Make it your strength. You’ve had to learn how to negotiate, compromise, and mediate from an early age. That’s a valuable skill that will help you in all areas of your life. Don’t let your birth order hold you back; use it to your advantage.
- Communicate and express your feelings.
One of the biggest challenges for adult middle children is dealing with unresolved issues from their childhood. Maybe your older sibling used to tease you mercilessly, or your younger sibling would always get their way. Perhaps both still do. Whatever the hurt or resentment, it’s important to address it. You can’t move forward in adult relationships until you’ve dealt with the past. Talking to your siblings about your feelings might be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. Be honest and vulnerable; you might be surprised at the healing that can come from it.
- Set boundaries and stick to them.
It’s important to set boundaries in all relationships, including your family. As an adult middle child, you might feel like your siblings constantly pull you in different directions. But you need to prioritize your own needs and boundaries. Don’t let your siblings take advantage of you. If you need alone time, say so. If you can’t attend a family function, don’t feel guilty about it. It’s okay to say no and set boundaries that work for you.
- Remember that you’re all on the same team.
No matter how much you fight or disagree, you’re all family at the end of the day. You share a bond that can’t be broken. Remember that you’re all on the same team. You might not always like each other, but you always love each other. Step back when you feel things are tense or heated, and remember you’re all together.
Being a middle child can be tough, but it’s not all bad. Middle child syndrome may still exist, but it’s important to recognize the positive traits of being the middle child. Middle children often possess strong independence, the ability to compromise and mediate, and a sense of adventure. Recognizing these traits as strengths can lead to a fulfilling and successful adult life. Growing up in the middle may have been tough, but we’re stronger because of it as adults.
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