Q. Holidays were a nightmare this year. I’m the eldest of five. My siblings take advantage of our parents’ generosity and good nature and don’t pitch in to help them. As the only one unmarried, I end up doing everything! What can I do to make them step up to the plate and do what they are supposed to do for their parents? I am so frustrated I am almost ill! My parents recognize the discrepancy but they don’t want to rock the boat or create any conflict among the siblings.

A. The situation you describe is very unfortunate. As the eldest, you may have a bigger or even a more mature picture of what needs to be done, but you will need to communicate your views carefully because every brain is unique. Yours will perceive the situation differently from the brains of your siblings. You can ask for their reasonable help but you cannot force them, as you put it, to “step up to the plate and do what they are supposed to do for their parents.” Their brains may view things entirely differently.

Some sibling groups are able to meet together, evaluate at what their parents need, and come up with a workable plan. Ideally, all siblings contribute equally to the solution although not necessarily identically. Each may contribute in different ways. Some may just kick in money, others may agree to do specific chores every month (e.g., cut the lawn, blow leaves out of the gutters, take a parent grocery shopping).

Once the decisions have been made, one would hope that the siblings are mature and committed enough to follow through on what they agreed to contribute. If there is no follow through, the sibling group needs to revisit the plan and revise it as needed. If the parents are mentally competent, it can be helpful to have them be part of the group. Sometimes living can be simplified and parents may have suggestions if they are willing to be part of the discussion.

In terms of being frustrated, you can do something about that. You can live the 20:80 Rule, which may have filtered down from the Greek Philosopher Epictetus, who taught that it’s not so much what happens that matters as what you think about what happens. Estimates are that 20 percent of the negative effects to your brain and body can be attributed to the event or situation; while 80 percent can be ascribed to your perception of the event or situation—what you think about it and the weight you give to it.

It’s also similar to the 80:20 ratio of cause-to-effect known as the Pareto Principle: 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. In this case you might paraphrase that to say: 80 percent of the negative effect (your frustration) is caused by what you think about the 20 percent (the event or situation itself).

Recognize that “it is what it is.” No amount of cajoling, threatening, demanding, bribing, or shaming, or you name it can force your siblings to do what you believe needs to be done, right or wrong. “It is what it is.” Recognizing that can help you do your part—and stop trying to do everyone else’s part or avoid becoming upset when they fail to step up to the plate.