But I didn't get anyone pregnant when I was 5!
June 25, 2011 3:48 PM Subscribe
Help me figure out how to be the best brother/guardian/not-quite-father to my 16 year old sister following our parents' death.
posted by buteo to human relations (41 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Backstory: early 20s, male, queer, eldest of three children. Our father passed away 5 years ago and our mother passed away this past winter. I was listed as de facto guardian for my siblings in my mother's will. Luckily, my brother just turned 18, is well-adjusted and will be going to university in the fall. He has also bonded quite strongly with our uncle (who has been helping me with the estate and other legal matters) so I feel "off the hook" with regards to him.
My sister is another matter. She and I have never been close to our large age difference and I feel that she grew up resenting the bond that my brother and I formed by virtue of having similar interests, being closer in age and both being boys.
For many reasons, I am unable to actually have my sister live with me at this time (frankly, it would drive me crazy and I need to focus on my studies); as a result, she is living with family friends who have not raised a teenager before. My sister is not very well adjusted for a 16 year old and often has bouts of immaturity such as temper tantrums, crying to get what she wants, insulting and swearing at authority figures (she once got mad and told our terminally ill mother to "just die already" and never apologized for it).
She also is the typical book-brilliant-people-dumb nerdy kid, which gets her into a lot of awkward situations with classmates. She has been heavily bullied since I can remember. She does not take responsibility for her actions ever, which makes it very hard to reason with her or talk these issues out. I also have no idea what our mother taught her about safer sex but I worry that her self-esteem issues could lead her to make some poor decisions later on if she's not properly educated (though she insists that she doesn't have any interest in dating/boys/girls right now). If I so much as try to mention any of this, she starts crying or screams and runs up to her room and slams the door.
In contrast, her academics are very strong and she is engaged in more extra-curriculars than I ever was at her age. However, she seems extremely bitter and pessimistic about things in general. I have not seen any signs of self-harm but she may have an unhealthy relationship with food.
So I suppose my questions are:
1)Should I even try to address these things with my sister? We're 5 years apart so it's not like I have that much more experience than she does but I used to be a lot like her when I was younger (12-14) and I want to try to give her the tools she needs to keep herself safe (I know trying to get her to be less of a brat is a lofty ambition). I feel like the responsibility falls to me as she hasn't bonded with her new "family" (yet) and our uncle hasn't been able to get through to her either.
2) Assuming the responsibility does fall to me, how should I go about this? What should I try to tackle, what should I avoid altogether?
3) If anyone has any other advice about how to handle a teenaged girl without going completely bonkers, I'd appreciate it.
I feel I should also note that I do adore my little sister and I want her to be happy and healthy. If my list of concerns seems callous it's because I am extremely frazzled by suddenly having her be my responsibility and I have no idea where to start. If I am misguided in my concerns, do correct me.