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Five New Ways to Understand Your Family’s Dynamics This Holiday Season

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 It’s that time of the year when families are getting together. For some, these holiday get-togethers can be fraught with difficult family dynamics. But why? It’s just family, right? One answer is that when families get together everyone takes a step back in time and the pecking order—birth order—comes back into play.

No matter that Joann is now a successful investment banker in New York City—she is still the baby sister to her older siblings, and is still treated the same way as she was when growing up. Birth order shapes your path throughout life, and these traits don’t change when you leave the nest, get a job, and have a family of your own. And when lots of family members get together, the personality traits come into play.

Here are five ways to understand your family’s birth order dynamics this holiday season:

•     Birth order affects personalities based on who was born first, second, third, or fourth.  The first is the enforcer and wants to give orders. The second doesn’t want to be told what to do—especially by the firstborn! The third born stays out of the fight and looks on, laughing on the outside but feeling everything inside. The fourth born is the true baby, and just wants to have fun and someone to take care of him or her. 

•     Relationships can be shaped by birth order. When extended families get together, there will be more than one family member with the same birth order. Having two firstborns running the show is like having two generals who both want to lead the troops. The second borns will seek out each other, but they get along well with the fourth borns.  This is because the second borns don’t want to be told what to do and the fourth borns are looking for some direction.  The third borns can be the quiet ones—watching the family action and getting along with everyone, as they know just what to say to each birth order.

•     “Double birth order” needs to be factored into some family situations.  Double birth order occurs when children are spaced four years apart or more from their closest sibling.  For instance, if the last child is the third born and spaced four years from their older number two sibling, they would carry a Three/Only birth order. Double birth order children carry both characteristics of their number and are powered up by the Only element. This blending of two birth orders magnifies, intensifies and amplifies characteristics. For example, if a two is stubborn, then a Two/Only is an immovable object.

•     Despite these realities, you’re not locked into conflicts. With birth order in mind, you can navigate any difficulty by understanding the birth order of your family members. Who wants to give orders? The firstborn. Who won’t do what you tell them? The second born. Who stays out of the conflict but feels the tension? The third born. Who is going to have a good time no matter what? The fourth born.

•     For larger families  Birth order starts over at the top for the children following the fourth child of the family. If you are a fifth born, you share the firstborn traits. If you are a sixth born, you share the second-born traits, and so on. But often the birth order traits are softened in these family members.

For holiday entertainment, have the family wear a nametag identifying their birth order number, and let the fun begin. It’s a great way to bring the family together.  

Dr. Robert V. V. Hurst is author of the book “Life’s Fingerprint: How Birth Order Affects Your Path Throughout Life.” For more information, contact him at www.lifesfingerprint.com or visit his blog at http:/doublebirthorder.blogspot.com.

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