I can’t stand my sister and she hates me-River City Counseling

Not long ago, I got a call from the parents of two adolescent girls.  They were concerned because their younger daughter’s grades had slipped significantly and her friends and behavior had changed drastically.  They’d suspected that she’d begun using drugs, and after careful consideration made the choice to drug test her.  When she tested positive they’d confronted her, and she admitted to smoking marijuana on a regular basis.“Audrey” was about three minutes into her first session when she started sobbing as she told me about her older sister “Nancy,” who was a top student and well-loved by both peers and teachers.  She also had a really nice boyfriend and had never gotten in trouble for much beyond breaking curfew by a few minutes.

It was clear that Audrey felt that Nancy was her parents’ favorite.  When they were out with friends and family, they’d highlight Nancy’s successes. Although Audrey was extremely talented artistically and won awards at school and in local art contests, they’d say next to nothing about her accomplishments.  Instead, they complained about her academic struggles and how they hoped she’d focus less on art and more on her “real” schoolwork.  Over time, Audrey became jealous and resentful of her sister and furious with her parents, and it was at that point that she’d started smoking marijuana regularly.

As much as we’d like to think rivalries between siblings end about the time they graduate from their pull-ups, it’s important for parents to realize that the competitions are alive and well during adolescence.  Although it’s impossible to prevent sibling rivalries altogether, parents can take steps to help minimize the negative effects of the struggles.

One vital step is to strive not to compare one teen’s successes to another.  If we focus on the skills and accomplishments of one child and give the other the message that they should work on developing the same skills, it’s a set-up for ill will to develop between them.  Had Audrey’s parents complimented her for her accomplishments, rather than focusing on areas in which she wasn’t as talented or successful as Nancy, her struggles could have been less severe.

It’s also helpful to compliment your teen in public as frequently as possible.  While she might roll her eyes and look uncomfortable, she’ll eat-up the positive attention.  Had Audrey felt that she, too, was a star in her parents’ eyes, it’s likely she wouldn’t have been as affected by the positive attention they’d lavished upon Nancy.

Finally, spend quality one-on-one time outside your home with each of your teens.  Let them know that they can speak freely about how they’re feeling, and listen openly to the feedback you receive.  Should they give specific examples of how they’d like to be treated differently, consider them carefully and make changes when possible.  This would give them the message that their feelings are valid and important.  It would also increase the likelihood that they’d be open to hearing about your concerns and following your suggestions.

Fortunately, Audrey’s parents were receptive to my guidance and took steps to change how they treated her.  They focused on celebrating Audrey for her artistic talents, rather than comparing her to Nancy and criticizing her when she didn’t match-up.  This helped Audrey feel better, and the relationships with both her parents and sister improved significantly.  Before long, she no longer felt the need to get high, and her grades started improving steadily.

2 Responses to I can’t stand my sister and she hates me-River City Counseling
  1. elizabeth
    April 22, 2015 | 5:06 pm

    Excellent advice…….Some parents are not even aware that there is jealousy between siblings…

    Speaking of jealousy, I heard yesterday from a friend that her mother was jealous of her because she had a serious boyfriend and was spending less time with her mother. The mother consequently was bad mouthing the boyfriend. So Jealousy can impact all sorts of family dynamics.

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