Help me mediate my dad's deteriorating relationship with my half sister
March 13, 2013 12:36 PM Subscribe
My Dad is angry and upset with his child who lives on another continent. She is disrespectful to him and he is abrasive and hurtful in return (albeit with good motives overall). And I've been asked to mediate.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My American father had a child with a Bolivian woman when I was about 14 (I'm 30 now, so she 16). My half sister grew up and still lives in the city in Bolivia where she was bornl. Her Bolivian family is fairly well off. My dad supplements by paying for school and health care. She attends an excellent school and has flourished academically. My father is very proud of that. (He paid for her to spend a semester in Germany this past year)
My father, however, still lives in the United States. He has visited his daughter, on average, once every two years. He has maintained fairly regular phone contact.
My half sister's mother and our father have long-standing disagreements about parenting strategies. He has criticized her for her for not enforcing rules and providing discipline. He also, for several years, has been critical of my half-sister's weight, which he blames on her 1) taste for sweets and 2) overeating. He concedes that meals eaten in the home are healthy though. He says she's obese. He is not gentle about how he phrases this. However, I know that he ultimately is concerned for her health.
This situation reached a crescendo when he, along with his girlfriend/partner, went to visit them a few months ago. His account was that she was extremely rude, manipulative, spoiled, not appreciative, etc. I think the flash points were that she said she did not love or care for him and was only interested in financial support. He also said that she is out of control and that she has hit or pushed her mother in the past.
Her comments clearly hurt/angered him. His hurt essentially has been channeled into anger. They have not spoken since he left. Now he wants to send her an email that outlines all things he thinks are wrong with her (including that she "looks terrible", "eats like a pig"). But he also says that it's her responsibility to reinitiate contact. He's acting as though he wants to sever ties although I don't think he really does.
He's angry with her mother because he feels she did not allow him to take a tougher stance when my half sister was younger. He acknowledges not being around has not helped.
I have a good relationship with my half-sister's cousin (whom I know from visiting), but I have not done a good job of establishing my own relationship with her. I am trying to change that currently and skyped with her last week. She seems responsive to me (and likes my fiancee a lot).
Her mother reached out to me to ask me to prevent him from sending this email to my half sister, which I am inclined to do since I think it will hurt far more than it could possibly help.
A few more details: My half-sister's older cousin (Bolivian) who was often her babysister agrees that she is manipulative and spoiled (though she cares about her very much) and that she has a personality her mother was not prepared for.
In essence, I think my dad is going about this the wrong way, though I also think he deserves an apology. I am trying to establish more trust with my sister but I'm not sure it's the right time to mediate directly with her.
I'm not sure that her behavior is just typical "hormonal" teenager behavior. There were rumors that she is depressed but her cousin refutes that, saying it was an attention ploy (I haven't asked my sister directly).
Sorry for the long-winded explanation. I'm worried that the relationship could veer off the tracks. I'm also worried about my sister's personality development (and the impact my dad could have) but I recognize that I am late to the game.