Teen talk: How to deal with other siblings?


How to deal with other siblings?

“Bill was my older brother. I looked up to him a lot. He was very likable—charming, funny. When we’d eat as a family, he could have us all screaming with laughter! But Bill was always a very angry person. He started hanging out with some spoiled rich kids and got into drugs. That just got him madder and madder. Soon he even started getting into fights with our parents. I even saw him push Mom around once! One week we planned our first family camping trip. I was really looking forward to it! And then Bill ran away, giving us no hint as to where he had gone. I was scared for him, worried. But I was also mad at him; mad because Dad had to cancel our trip, mad because Bill was always messing everything up.”—Don.

IT HURTS when an older brother or sister rebels, runs away, gets arrested, or in some way disgraces your family.

Often you have looked up to that older sibling (brother or sister) as a model. Watching that one tumble from a pedestal can be a shattering experience. It may even arouse fears regarding yourself. ‘Will this happen to me?’

Resentment may be yet another powerful emotion to contend with. You resent your rebellious sibling for all the hurt and pain he is causing you and your family. “Mom and Dad were at a loss as to what to do,” recalls Don. “They were just sick over the matter.” You may further resent that your wayward sibling has become the focus of your parents’ attention as if you no longer exist! You may even be tempted to act up a little yourself so as to flag your parents’ attention.

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On the other hand, you may also feel resentment toward your parents as they begin to take severe disciplinary action toward the rebellious one. You wonder: ‘Did they have to be so hard on him?’ You may also tire of hearing your parents reprimand him. Some youths even secretly feel envy, wondering if they would enjoy the free life-style their brother or sister now seems to relish. Or you may simply be embarrassed to have to explain the distressing situation to your friends.

Why, then, do older brothers and sisters sometimes let us down? And how can you prevent it from unduly affecting your life?

And youths are particularly vulnerable to wrongdoing, as they have often not learned to control their emotions and impulses. So as much as their failure no doubt hurts you, there is probably no reason for you to believe that your sibling’s wrongdoing was in any way directed at you personally, nor is there any reason for you to be unduly embarrassed, as if the wrongdoing were your own.

It is possible that there has been some failure on the part of your parents in their raising of your brother or sister. Perhaps they were too lenient and failed to discipline him properly. Perhaps, too, they failed in some way to set a proper example. Even so, little would be accomplished by getting into bitter arguments with your parents, attempting to pin the blame on them for your sibling’s problems.

More than likely there has been, not so much a failure on the part of your parents to provide training, but a failure on the part of your brother or sister to respond to parental training.

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This may help you appreciate why your sibling’s deflection is particularly devastating to your parents. They have put much time, effort, and emotion into the raising of your brother or sister. Seeing that one do wrong, they can’t help but be filled with doubts and guilt about the way they raised him or her.

Little wonder, then, that when the crisis is at its peak, your parents may seemingly neglect you. The book How to Survive Your Child’s Rebellious Teens, by Myron Brenton, explains: “The rebellious child is so much the center of the parents’ world and takes up so much of their emotional energy that the other children are ignored. ‘I was so blind, so focused in on this one older daughter that I wasn’t even aware that I had another daughter or husband,’ is the way one mother of a drug-addicted child put it.”

Granted, it is not fair if parents react in this way. But is it not understandable? Be assured that as things calm down—and they will in time—your parents will gradually regain their balance and be in a position to care for your needs better.

‘Will I Do the Same Thing?’

This question greatly concerns many youths, especially if they find themselves a bit curious about the “freedom” their older brother or sister is tasting.

First of all, realize that while you may have looked up to your older sibling, you are still responsible to do what is right. To envy the seeming freedom he or she now has is sheer foolishness. You do not need to experience wrongdoing personally to know that it leads only to heartache.

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Realize, too, that what your older brother or sister does in no way predicts what you will do. As Terry (quoted at the outset) put it: “I’m not going to do what my sister did. I’m nothing like her. We’re separate persons.”

Your faithful efforts may even move your older brother or sister to straighten out his or her own life.

Learn From Their Mistakes

Try to gain some benefit from this difficult situation. Perhaps you need to take a closer look at those you associate with.

Think, too, about the way your older sibling responded to counsel from your parents. Was he argumentative, stubborn, and rebellious? If so, do you find yourself occasionally talking back to your parents or dragging your feet when it comes to carrying out what they ask you to do? Could you be more conscientious about ‘honoring your father and your mother’?

It will not be easy, but you and your family will survive this sad experience and perhaps see some good come out of it. In the meantime, never lose hope that your older sibling will realize the error of his or her way and take steps to change. Never forget that while family members may let you down.

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