I want my younger son to step out of his brother’s shadow

Your Life
Dr. Cathleen McGreal
October, 2016

My younger child is about to enter high school and will be in the same school as his older brother, who is an A student and a star athlete. How do I help the younger sibling, who is not as strong a student and enjoys quieter pursuits, not feel he is in his brother’s shadow?

Our children had diverse interests in high school, but the entire family supported each pursuit. For example, we all celebrated when Erin became our high school’s first delegate to have a resolution passed through the General Assembly at Model U.N.! Shannon, a member of the golf team, was cheered on each hole by family members riding in a golf cart. Healthy high school pursuits, whether quiet or bold, should be encouraged.

Different gifts but the same spirit. Life would be boring if we all excelled at the same tasks. Our culture highlights extroversion, but key contributions are made in quiet ways. Generations after the death of St. Teresa of Ávila, we gain great insights from her hours of contemplation by reading The Interior Castle. Your younger son may not be a star athlete, but he doesn’t need to live in his older brother’s shadow. Instead, his path is to grow in his own talents.

Refocusing the family spotlight. Parents know the expected “script” for many high school activities. When a child is on the soccer team, we note the match dates and snack schedule. But we don’t have detailed scripts for quieter pursuits. Adolescents fascinated by astronomy, for example, may require more active parental engagement. We are willing to travel for out-of-town games, but do we scout out special exhibits to encourage an interest in space? The cliques may focus attention in high school, but at home, families gain by delving deeper into their diverse interests.

Read Romans 12:2. Conforming to what the crowd values is tempting. As parents, however, you can encourage your younger son to discern his own gifts rather than to emulate the path that is best for his brother.