My sister's very necessary irritating hugs
The understated importance of sibling bonds as we grow up.

About two years ago my sister moved away.

Not down the road, not to another suburb; she moved approximately 13 408 km away, which is around 15 hours by plane to Birmingham airport.

And while sometimes when she was still here we weren’t really the best of friends and she gave me one too many irritating hugs, after she’d left I started missing all the best friend things we used to do together.

Like laughing uncontrollably and going shopping for hours, watching movies till late and going for huge breakfasts.

Which completely defeated the purpose of our early morning runs, of course.

And these precious little moments that I find myself longing for, and the older sister I miss so dearly, are the very reasons I am who I am today.

Now, before you say anything, I know that sounds overly sentimental and maybe I’m just a tad emotional thinking about those soft poached eggs and salmon bagels after measly 15-minute jogs that were actually just brisk walks. But studies have actually proven this to be true.

According to psychology professor Dieter Wolke from the University of Warwick, sibling bonds can have a significant influence on a child’s development.

“Positive sibling ties and interactions can facilitate cognitive development, provide emotional support, and buffer siblings from adverse life events, including marital conflicts or poor peer relationships,” explains Wolke.

This is because, and particularly in bigger families, older siblings often feel the need to guide and protect their younger siblings, while at the same time benefiting intellectually and emotionally from becoming mentors and carers for them.

Younger siblings as a result also grow up having a solid support system and the necessary love and affection to help them through life and all its unexpected challenges.

A lot of research has gone into the importance of a mother’s affection and how it inevitably affects their child later in life, and although no love can compare to a mother’s love, lasting, significant love can come from any family member.

Researchers from Duke University Medical School explain that oxytocin is a chemical that gets released from the brain every time a person feels love and affection.

This “love hormone” which is responsible for the bonding between a mother and child during childbirth, lactation and infancy in the months that follow, also affects children’s emotions and cognitive development growing up.

This is because with the release of the hormone one often feels warm and positive emotions such as happiness and contentment.

The hormone even helps one feel calm and relieves anxiety in stressful situations, which explains why something as simple as a hug can make all the difference in the world.

Medical school research aside, we often undervalue the people who love and care for us and we especially undervalue the siblings who love us unconditionally.

But now we know just how important it is to actually nurture the bonds we have, not only with our children, but our brothers and sisters as well.

I came across this song a little while ago which made me want to actually write this story. It's about a brother's love for his sister and the need he feels to always protect her and look out for her.

Warning: the scenes in the official music video are explicit (the younger sister is going through a rough time with depression and has unhealthy coping mechanisms) but the song is beautiful. If you want to listen to the song without seeing the music video, hit play on the second video.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to send an appreciation text and virtual hug half way across the world.

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