Here’s What Oldest Siblings Bring Up Most In Therapy

Here’s What Oldest Siblings Bring Up Most In Therapy


“Fiercely independent,” “driven,” “responsible” and “caretakers” are words that are often used to describe oldest siblings. From a young age, firstborn children are tasked with watching out for their siblings while also being raised by first-time parents, which are experiences that show up in many ways, including in certain topics and beliefs that come out in therapy.

What’s more, there are no other children around when the oldest child is born, which means their role models are adults, their caregivers, according to Aparna Sagaram, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Space to Reflect in Philadelphia.

Younger siblings, on the other hand, have their older siblings around and look at them as role models.

“Generally, they say younger siblings are more relaxed and more carefree — it’s interesting because their role models [are] actually a child,” Sagaram said. 

Combined with the lived experiences oldest children have, this creates specific challenges that are often discussed in therapy. Below are some of the most common issues oldest siblings bring up in sessions:

Struggles With Perfectionism 

With the oldest child, there is a lot of trial-and-error parenting — new parents are learning how to raise their firstborn and don’t yet have the knowledge that they’ll bring to raising their younger children, said Altheresa Clark, a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of Inspire4Purpose in Florida.

This may mean oldest children have to deal with extreme parenting styles, like a strict upbringing with lots of rules and expectations. “So, how that translates to the oldest child, they now have to grow up and there are a lot of expectations. A lot of times [this creates a] Type A personality where they become perfectionists,” Clark said.

Clark said she helps her oldest-sibling patients connect the dots and dismantle the perfectionist belief systems that have been with them for decades. “We’re helping them say, well, your parent was hard on you as the oldest child, which then translated as you had to be the best, you’re a perfectionist, you’re very self-critical.”

It’s important for oldest siblings to realize this connection to be easier on themselves when they don’t meet their high expectations, she said.

“If they don’t show up the way their parents enforced in them, they’re very, very hard on themselves,” Clark said.

Feelings Of Imposter Syndrome 

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