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The impact of emigration and sibling separation: understanding the complexities

By February 23, 2024FinGlobal, Newsletter

The impact of emigration and sibling separation: understanding the complexities

February 23, 2024


When a sibling chooses to immigrate, it can elicit a mix of emotions. On one hand, there may be feelings of pride and excitement for the sibling’s new adventure. On the other hand, this sibling separation may cause feelings of grief and loss for the sibling left behind. It can bring about a significant change in family dynamics. Coping with the challenges that the impact of separation brings forth can be a daunting task, but it is crucial to recognize and confront these emotions to foster and sustain healthy family relationships.

The uniqueness of sibling relationships

Sibling relationships are unique and understood by those who have experienced them. The bonds between brothers and sisters are intricate and influenced by sibling dynamics within each family. On average, a person spends about a third of their life with their siblings. During childhood, siblings form special connections that deepen over time, often surpassing the depth of any other friendship due to their shared genetic heritage. From birth, siblings embark on a shared journey, bound by a common history and a collective vision of the future. Among all the people in our lives, our brothers and sisters hold the greatest influence over us — even more than our parents, children, or friends.

However, when a sibling decides to emigrate, the nature of one of our longest and closest relationships fundamentally changes. The dynamics within the original family are reshaped and redefined in a way that is entirely unique.

It is this profound impact that makes a sibling’s decision to emigrate so intense.

The emotional of emigration effects separating siblings

The impact of emigration extends beyond the individual, affecting the entire family unit. Each family member grapples with the implications in their own unique way, creating a complex mix of emotions.

The sibling who emigrates experiences a range of feelings, including both concern and excitement about what lies ahead. Balancing the challenges and changes that come with emigration, they may feel torn between forging a new life and maintaining connections with their family of origin, resulting in a sense of being in limbo. Underlying these emotions is a sense of guilt towards the family left behind, coupled with the pressure to succeed in their new environment.

Parents also experience a mix of emotions. They worry about their child’s well-being in an unfamiliar country and feel sadness over the loss of daily interaction and physical presence. However, they also take pride in their child’s opportunities, achievements, and pursuit of a potentially better future.

The remaining siblings navigate their own emotional journey, marked by longing, helplessness, and a sense of abandonment. Initially, they may feel jealous when hearing about the enjoyable and secure life in the new country. However, they also admire their emigrating sibling, recognizing the courage it takes to start a new life abroad. This admiration can inspire them to consider their own potential for successful emigration.

The siblings who stay behind often find themselves shouldering more responsibility towards their parents, leading to mixed feelings for all involved. When a parent requires additional physical care or important decisions need to be made, the absence of siblings is deeply felt.

When the distant child visits, parents must strike a delicate balance. After long periods of separation, it is natural for parents to shower the visiting child with overwhelming affection. However, this can create a sense of concern among the remaining siblings, who describe experiences of their emigrated siblings being treated as honored guests during visits.

Strengthening bonds across vast distances

To navigate the changes caused by sibling emigration, acknowledging and adapting to the new family dynamics is crucial. Embrace the opportunities presented by the virtual world, like online games and shared hobbies. Regular communication helps maintain the emotional connection between siblings, regardless of distance. It takes an active commitment from all family members to keep these bonds strong. Explore new ways to stay connected, even with geographical distance or time zone differences. Family bonds can transcend any obstacles when we make the necessary efforts to bridge the gap.


Sibling emigration is emotionally challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and new experiences. By understanding each other, communicating openly, and embracing change, you can maintain a strong relationship despite the distance. Lean on each other for support and cherish the moments together, no matter where life takes you.

Sulette Ferreira is a migration therapist in private practice. You can contact her at

If you require financial and tax emigration advice, or if you’re looking to transfer money from South Africa, feel free to reach out to FinGlobal.

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