If you have siblings, you know how it goes: One minute, you’re getting sibling tattoos together, and the next, you’re super mad and questioning if you’re really related. First-borns, in particular, have an interesting place on this love/hate continuum. As the oldest, you probably feel that you’re wisest, and therefore have oodles of wisdom to impart to your younger counterparts (even if they’re just a year younger). Youngest children often feel that oldest children take this wise-owl act into parent territory. So where’s the line? Check out these tips for maintaining your cool sibling status while still being supportive.

1. Lead by example. It’s really tempting to pave the way for your younger siblings by telling them the best way to do things, like how to choose a college or break up with someone. Even though you’re just trying to help — you learned the hard way, after all — take a step back. Be there if your bro or sis needs you, but know that your example sets a strong precedent for them to follow. Telling in addition to showing them runs the risk of sounding like a lecture.

2. Keep their secrets. No more sacred words have been spoken than “Don’t tell Mom.” And it’s true: While being honest with your parents is always a good thing, keeping your sibs’ secrets (even when it’s hard) will establish deep trust between you. If your siblings trust you, they’ll be much more likely to look up to you as an older sister rather than as a parent.

3. Bail them out, but draw a line. There’s something in your blood that makes you want to be there for your siblings — and sometimes, being there for them means bailing them out of bad situations. By being there for them without judgment at their worst, they’ll be thankful for you when they’re at their best. Although supporting your brothers/sisters is important, remember to draw a line; they have to grow up somehow!

4. Give advice when asked. It’s an honor when someone comes to you with a hard situation or question. By letting your siblings bring their important questions to you (rather than you providing unsolicited wisdom) during a crisis, you’ll know for sure that they need you and that your advice is welcome.

5. Channel your younger self. Remember when you were six going on 26? If there’s a pretty large age gap between you and your younger counterparts, channel your younger self as you advise them. To you, getting stood up at prom might sound like frivolous drama — but in that moment, you’d be super upset too.

6.Rely on friends’ older siblings and role models. You might be the oldest and wisest sibling in your household, but know that you aren’t the oldest and wisest in the land. Make an effort to check in with your friends that are older siblings or find role models that are close in age to you. They can give you advice and keep your perception in check.

How does birth order affect your relationships with your siblings? Let us know @BritandCo!

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