I grew up as the youngest of 3 with a 7 and 9.5 year gap between myself and my older brothers. Today, I know many families who have even larger age gaps between their children, but when I was younger I felt like an anomaly.
I'd like to preface this by saying that my brothers are truly some of the most incredible men I know. They both have solid relationships with God, are excellent husbands, and loving fathers. I highly admire and respect them and love living close enough that we get to see eachother often.
But lets backtrack a few years....
My brothers like to remind me that I was really cute and lovable - for about the first 2 years of my life. Then I apparently got annoying (although I do give them some credit in this area, when I started talking I had a hard time stopping!!). The challenging part for me was that as I grew up I never felt like I was ever able to grow out of that "little girl" role in my brother's eyes. As the years went by I found myself really desiring a closer relationship with my brothers (and my sisters-in-law).
- Take some time to intentionally step out of an "authority role." Find some time to do something together with your younger siblings as friends and treat them as the young adults they are becoming. Some of my favorite memories with my brothers over the last couple of years have been the times we spent one-on-one doing something we loved or trying something new together (i.e. trying surfing [also ridiculously comical], grabbing ice cream together, going to a baseball game, etc.)
- Be interested in just talking to your younger siblings and getting to know them as they grow and change - let them know you are recognizing them getting older. This was one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome with my brothers. Nathan left for college when I was almost 9 and Todd when I was 11 - consequently as I got older they continued to treat me like I was the annoying little sister they had left behind.
- Acts of Service (see below, I can speak better about this from a younger sibling perspective)
-Words of affirmation - this is my love language, so maybe it means more to me, but the moments where my brothers and SILs have taken the time to say or write words of affirmation has meant so much. "I love you" or "I'm proud of you" mean so much coming from them - partially because I respect and admire them both so much!
- Acts of Service - this is what I believe really started to change my sibling relationships. Look for ways you can serve your siblings and their families and show that you want to be part of their lives and care about them.
- Communication - let them know how you are feeling, that you desire a relationship or want to spend more time together.
- Realize that it doesn't have to be perfect all the time!
- Give it time. My brothers and I really didn't start getting closer until I hit about 19/20. They have always been my protectors and i have always known they loved me, but for us it has been a journey of all of us needing to mature. Today I wouldn't trade them in for anything :) They still take on authority positions at times - i.e. When I was thinking about quitting law school after my 1L year they sat down with me (picture 3 chairs in a triangle) and set me straight in a very brotherly fashion, but they have also become the ones I often turn to first when in need for advice or direction.
One of the best parts of having older brothers? I got 2 great sisters-in-law and got to be an aunt early on!