advice needed on family falling apart

i rarely use this board for advice on personal problems. but i really am becoming desperate for help. but first off:

i do not want this thread to become guanoed with side-conversations or arguments on the correct way to raise kids, or anything else. this may sound presumptious or *****y, and i don't mean it like that - i just feel this issue is very serious for me and don't want any more negative energy to get attached to it. i am asking for honest, open advice.

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basically, i am 21 and my younger (and only other sibling) sister is 16 - 5 years younger than me. our parents split up when i was 17, she was 12. we moved in with my dad from a 3-floor victorian house to a 3 bedroom bungalow, and 9 months later i disappeared off to university. this is just at the point in her life that she was coming into puberty and trying to discover who she was. so it was obviously upsetting.

however, she has never opened up ONCE and told me how she feels. the day after we were told my parents were splitting up, i asked if she was ok and i got a quick 'yip' back. not the sort that covers up tears - the sort that i knew i couldnt break through. the circumstances behind the split were horrible. 2 years of fighting, my mum trying to drive away drunkenly from teh house, breaking mirrors, swearing, leaving my sister and i terrified. so the split, for me, came as a relief as it meant peace at home.

but NOT my little sister is turning into a monster. yes, all teenagers are hard to cope with, and i wasn't perfect myself. but for the past year, she has made my dad's life hell. literally. everything is his fault, she screams and storms around the small house, and from my point of view, it seems that she is turning into my mum and he is going through the horrible split from my mum all over again.

he is the most wonderful and caring man you can imagine. so kind, but this is his downfall as he spoilt my little sister, just like he spoilt my mum. and my mum doesnt help - she doesnt stand by my dad and try to discipline my sister, but instead gives her money and takes her shopping and spoils her rotten.

it has progressively been getting worse. she now has a boyfriend (who's 19) in a city a 3 hour train journey away, whom she goes to see every weekend. my dad at first tried to stop her occasionally, as he wanted her to realise discipline, but my mum gave her the money and sent her on her way.

yesterday i got a phone call saying my sister had missed an exam and the school was threatening to have her expelled. she also missed a class on friday. she goes to a private school that my dad spends a hellofalotta money on, and she is throwing it away.

this was crunch point for him - he has said she must either get her act together, or he will throw her out to live with my mum and she can go to the local college. and he would move cities, or even countries.

he used to be incredibly healthy, but recently his blood pressure has increased, he's getting bald patches and i have seen him longingly stare at cigarettes (he quit 10 yeras ago but used to smoke 40 a day). this is seriously causing him to stress and affecting his health.

the problem is, if my sister moved in with my mum, the placid peace that has prevailed since my parents split would be ruined. my mum was rather mentally unstable while they were together and moving out from us helped her. but if my sister moved back in, it would bring her dangerously close to losing it again, and i dont think her boyfriend would stay with her.

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so what can be done? my sister refused to go to councelling to see if it could help her anger issues. my dad has called parent line. i have tried seriously talking to her - not getting angry, but trying to make her realise how her anger could destroy our whole family. the split i could cope with, but if my dad falls into ill-health and leaves the country to escape her i myself would fall apart, under the stress of keeping my sister and mum happy and trying to see my dad.

i'm sorry if this is all disjointed. i cant convey my full family history, and all the **** we've been through. but it has been tough, and whilst i'm at uni getting on with my life, i am aware of things falling apart at home. last night i couldnt sleep at all cos of worry. i am not trying to take on the burden of their problems, but realistically if they fall apart, i have no family, no foundation and no 'home' to go to.

does anyone have any suggestions to help my sister see sense, and to get my mum to stop giving her moeny and spoiling her? today i heard that my sister has asked for a car for her bday and my dad said no, but my mum said yes. here in the UK you can only start lessons when you're 17, so she'd have a car before she could drive. and it is not common for teenagers that young to have a car of their own here, and we are not wealthy. that is one example of how spoilt and single-minded she is about getting her way.

any help?

cleanse: OS shampoo. PureNuffStuff cleanser.
condition: Aussie 3MM. Jessicurl Aloeba.
style: B2Basics GreenTeaGel. T&G Curl Balm. JCarter Nourish&Shine.


pw: curlywurly
Oh man. What a tough situation. It sounds like you've tried an awful lot, and I don't have any suggestions that will work-like-a-charm or anything like that.

Have YOU tried talking to a counselor? Not because you need help (though it might make you feel better to talk to someone like that), but maybe a professional would have suggestions more than we would here on NC.com.

It's ironic, isn't it, that our families-- the people we love most and who love us most-- can hurt us more than anyone.

*HUGS* to Jenny.
Previously Joy4ever.
Changed because the "number in place of a word" thing was bugging my no-longer-14-year-old self.
I know your sister has rejected counseling, but it's the only thing I can think of. Family counseling, because it's not just your sister who's having the problem, it's everyone, including you.

I don't suppose your dad could be persuaded to make her go to counseling? At her age her parents should still have a strong influence, but it sounds as if your dad has stopped trying.


When I went away to college, my younger sister started acting out and getting into trouble too, though my family was not as disrupted as yours. My parents didn't believe in counseling, but my sister sure needed it.
I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. I completely understand where you're coming from. I've had some similar situations in my family, both immediate and extended.

I'm going to second the idea of (family) therapy, even if your sister refuses to go. Not only can it give you suggestions, but it can also teach everyone the best ways to 'handle' your sister, ways not to enable her, learning how to say no to her, etc. I'm also not sure what the laws are in the UK, but I know here, my uncle was able to force his daughter into facilities/lockdowns/etc., because she was underage.

I wish you all the best. ((hugs))
Under construction.
thankyou so much for the advice everyone.

i like the idea of going to a councelor myself and asking for their advice on the situation. there is a stubborn streak that runs in the woman of my family and my sister and mum are displaying it at full force just now. if i asked my mum not to buy my sister a car for her birthday, my mum WOULD buy her a car all the same, but do so with greater relish and delight. and the more we suggested a councelor to my sis, the more she'd refuse. (in her mind councellor = shrink for people mentally unstable.)

the law here dictates that at the age of 16 a person is an adult and can do as they please. if joanna became anorexic and desperately needed hospitalisation and help, my dad could do nothing to make her (legally), wheras at 15 he could sign the paper to have her force fed. (dont know why i thought of that example, but you get the idea.) so she is an adult in the eyes of the law and has all the rights of one. equally, he could turn her out of his house and have no obligation to take her back even if she was penniless.

and my dad doesnt have any influence over my sister. when my parents were still together, my mum was the harsh dictator who we were scared of and my dad was the shelter and comforter who was soft and kind. he did occasionally get angry with good reason and that was when we knew to behave, but mostly as a parent he has been the 'good cop' who made things better. so really, he exerts no authority over my sister as someone who can 'lay down the law' - the only person who can do that is my mum, but since my parents split up she has not ONCE gotten angry at me or my sister. she's all sugar-sweet, buying us things, taking us out for lunch, having a good laugh. i personally now see her as a good friend but not a mother-figure. i love her as my mother but she does not provide the stern but sweet councelling a mother should (but which my dad does.)

it is a very tricky situation and i appreciate that there is no jim'llfixit answer. i truly appreciate the responses. .my friends here in glasgow dont know the full story and i dont want to involve them in my messy family history. so thankyou for responding.

cleanse: OS shampoo. PureNuffStuff cleanser.
condition: Aussie 3MM. Jessicurl Aloeba.
style: B2Basics GreenTeaGel. T&G Curl Balm. JCarter Nourish&Shine.


pw: curlywurly
darlin, im so sorry this is happening. I can feel how worried and desperate you must feel. I have a feeling from reading your post that you may be feeling a lot of guilt from have "escaped". You may not want to hear this and it may be painful, but your sister is not your responsiblity. She has a lot of pain that she hasnt dealt with yet. She needs to determine when she has had enough and wants to address these issues herself. Your parents have done somethings that havent helped this situation. Even if you wanted to step in and take control of this situation, you have no authority over her and both you parents are working against it. Dad with spoiling her and mom with aiding and abetting this out of control behavior

What you can do is be available. It is the greatest gift you can give her. Good luck darlin and you are in my thoughts and prayers.
I wonder if it would be possible for you to tell your sister you're unhappy and upset about the divorce and the problems your parents are causing, and say you want to to to counseling for yourself, and try to get her to come with you. It certainly wouldn't be a lie.
I'm sorry. It's a horrible situation.

I am going to echo Aphrodeeziac. I know that you care about your parents and your sister deeply and that this is killing you. But you can't help people that don't want to be helped, and you can't change people that don't want to be changed. Your parents are adults and your sister is an adult in the eyes of the law and obviously has a very strong mind of her own. You can't make her behave, you can't make your mom stop buying her things, you can't make your dad stop stressing. You can be there to help if they want the help, you can offer advice and support, but the rest is up to them.

I also think you should go to counseling. Go to family counseling with your dad and your mom (and your sister) if any of them are willing. Go on your own if none of them will go. The counseling will help you do what you can to help your family, and also will help you make peace with the fact that there is only so much you can do.
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
I have to agree that there's a point where *loving* your family and being able to *help* them are two different things. It took my best friend when I was growing up *years* to realize that, and she was so much happier when she did.

I also think that seeing a counselor yourself is a good idea. It would help you gain some insight.

Best of luck.
Thankyou again for all words of advice.

At first I felt selfish for saying this, but one of the main things that was getting me down was that my Dad may move to a different city or to England to escape the situation. And if he did, he wouldn't be near me, and I'd be left to bear the brunt of my mum and sister. I felt bad for selfishly wanting my sister to behave so my Dad would stay within an hour's drive of me, but I guess you're all right - I've got to let them resolve it as best they can and not get too involved.

The geography does help, as I am in Glasgow whilst they're all on the other side of the country so I really cant get that involved - it's not something that be solved over the phone or MSN. And I do think councelling might help, although I find it so hard to explain myself and get everything clear. I tried a councellor when my parents did first split up, and she interpreted everything I said the wrong way and I couldnt make her see how it really was.

I might also suggest councelling to my dad as he is much more stressed than I am, and might welcome the help. I think he is mostly stressed that he can do no more for her. He no longer spoils her, especially not physically with money. But he is emotionally weak and pours his love toward her. When she is angry, rather than being stern, he will wilt and slip away into the other room as he cant stand fighting: he did that for the last 5 years of his marriage.

Thankyou once again everyone. You have all helped, as I would not have considered councelling for myself unless it'd been suggested. I do feel a bit lighter already having considered it. I just hope that the whole situation can be resolved...

cleanse: OS shampoo. PureNuffStuff cleanser.
condition: Aussie 3MM. Jessicurl Aloeba.
style: B2Basics GreenTeaGel. T&G Curl Balm. JCarter Nourish&Shine.


pw: curlywurly
you have a right to feel what ever it is that you feel. Feelings of anger and resentment mingled with love and worry about your sister is normal. This is a complicated situation and your feelings will be complicated in return. Your dad is running away from a situation that he helped to create. This is not all about your sister's bhavior. She is the child and seems to have been failed by the adults that were supposed to help her grow into her potential. I can understand if you feel as though your sister is running him away, but the truth is she isnt. He cant figure out how to deal with this mess so it sounds as though his answer is to distance himself from it. Your mother has just made it easier for him by taking your sister into her own home. Feeling angry at dad is also normal. I dont know if you have let yourself feel those negative feelings for someone you love so dearly. You may even feel guilty about being mad at dad. But you need to examine those feelings also.

A counselor for you is a great idea to help you sort all this out for YOU so that you can find some peace in your life.
If your counselor misinterprets what you say, you have every right to find a new one. It often takes a few tries to find a counselor that fits right.

I think it's normal to feel the way you feel about your dad moving away. He is your dad - you need him. That feeling is not selfish.
To Trenell, MizKerri and geeky:
I pray none of you ever has to live in a communist state.

Geeky is my hero. She's the true badass. The badass who doesn't even need to be a badass. There aren't enough O's in cool to describe her.
aphro-deeziac, i'm not disagreeing with what you say but immediately as i read your post, i jumped to the defence of my dad. i admit he's not faultless, and part of his downfall is that he loves too much. but i can honestly say that he is a good man, whereas my mum was mentally unstable to the extent that she refused to seek help. she told us the house we live din was 'evil' and filled with 'bad energy' and we (my dad, sister and i) were the reason for it - when in reality it was her hatred. some days she'd be overly cheery and others she'd not move from the seat for 6 hours and give us heat-up soup for dinner. my dad KNEW she was in a bad way but had he forced help upon her she would have....well i know it would hvae been nasty and he did right in letting her sort it out herself. but he dedicated 10 years of his life to her and trying to help her get better, and stand by her. and he stayed with her for that long as he cared about my sister and i and didnt want to split the family up too soon.

and my sister has inherited the harsh strong-headed stubborness of my mum. she just will not let my dad help her, no matter how hard he tries. honestly, he tried for the last year and did try grounding her, and stoped giving her money, and did all the things he could,a nd he phoned child-line for help. but none of it worked. so only after a year of failure is he now conceeding defeat - he cant beat my sistser or my mum, and together they are a formidable force. so i feel the mian problem is my mum and trying to get her to see sense.

all i can feel for my dad is pity and hurt in that every woman he has loved in his wife has betrayed him. my mum. i, as a teenager, was horrible to him. and now my sister. my dad and i are now very good friends as adults, but i know he is heart broken. he never wanted the family to split up in the first place and wnats nothing more than a happy home, some day grandchildren and to die surrounded by love. but thats very far away right now. as a kid i used to say to him "why dont you just leave mummy?" as i knew she was destroying him, but he just smiled and siad "because i love her and you".

i dont know if this makes sense, but i entirely respect my dad and he is my hero. he has come so far and helped so much. when my mum's dad died, she was still mental so my dad was the one who helped my grandma move out my grandad's things and set up the funeral - despite that it wasnt his dad. my grandad (mums dad) loved my dad dearly, and apologised to him for my mums behaviour before he died.

it is all very messy and i am not meaning to say you are wrong aphro. but this is where my emotions come in - i have loved my dad, and hated him as a teenager, and now i fully respect him and despite his weaknesses i know that my sisters predicament is not his fault.

cleanse: OS shampoo. PureNuffStuff cleanser.
condition: Aussie 3MM. Jessicurl Aloeba.
style: B2Basics GreenTeaGel. T&G Curl Balm. JCarter Nourish&Shine.


pw: curlywurly
Jenny, it sounds as if you are feeling that your family is permanently damaged and can never recover. I believe that it could be possible for the family dynamic to change, if the members (including you) want it to be different.
SuZen i think your right. i have felt that my family is permanently damaged since i was about 12. it was then that my mum broke her ankle skating, and it was then that she turned for the worse and it was never the same. that sounds very dramatic but honestly, i cant explain what it was like. but all the love in our family evaporated. from it, my dad and i have loved each other again, but not in the family dynamic. now, just as father and daughter. my mum is the biggest enigma i have ever come across. people often tell me i am very perceptive and good at 'figuring people out' but my mum truly is bizarre. her mum and dad both feel bad she turned out the way she did. but she has a lot of anger issues and just.... .its hard to explain.

the only way our family was held together was that me and my sis loved my mum and dad equally and went between them. now the balance has shifted and its me in glasgow, my dad alone, my mum alone, and my sister going between them - battering agianst my dad and using my mum as shelter.

thankyou for the support SuZen - i do hope it can change, but to be honest, i've not known a real family since i was 12 so its not so much the family dynamic i want back. its just the peace of mind that each of us are happy with what we are.

cleanse: OS shampoo. PureNuffStuff cleanser.
condition: Aussie 3MM. Jessicurl Aloeba.
style: B2Basics GreenTeaGel. T&G Curl Balm. JCarter Nourish&Shine.


pw: curlywurly
Your family will never return to what it was like years ago, but with some effort and help, you all may be able to find new ways to be a family. Please don't just give up. I am still sensing love and affection between you, it just needs to be directed more productively.
I also agree that counseling (for anyone willing to go) would be helpful- it sounds like if nothing else, you can all work on communication and learning how to express disappoinment and anger without fighting.

Is it possible your sister may be doing drugs? (the anger, running off, irrational behavior...) it might be something to keep your eyes out for. She may have been this way even without the divorce, some teens just turn really nasty for various reasons, and the divorce can be the scapegoat, but it might have happened anyway.

It sounds like you're seeing your parents as people (good and bad points) but your sister is still in that mode of thinking like a young child in that everything revolves around her, and her parents' happiness is irrelevant. I feel sorry for you and your dad, and I wish you all the best.
Don't let your heart be broken. Let it love.
I don't have any advice but ((((Hugs)))) to you Jenny.
Fat does not make you fat. It's actually pretty important.
I don't know if this would work, but have You tried talking to your mother? Maybe if as you say, she is better now than she was, you may be able to calmly and rationally talk with her about it? It makes this situation very difficult that your sister is considered an adult there. That seems too young, and obviously your sister can't handle being an adult yet. You amy also want to talk to a counselor to see if he or she can give you any suggestions to help your sister since she won't go to counseling her self. I hope that this helps.
~~jax
2c or 3a Cut most of my hair off in July '12 and am working on regrowing it.
First of all, I am very sorry you are dealing with this and my thoughts are with you.

In my experience, the options for controlling a 16-year-old are very limited. Even in areas of the world where 18 is legally the age of majority, I don't think there's much that can be done, pratically speaking. Your sister will have to decide that she wants to change her behavior.

Personally, I think you are letting yourself get too involved in other people's relationships. Yes, what goes on between your mom and your sister (or your dad and your sister, or your mom and dad) does affect you. But, unfortunately, that doesn't always give you the authority to become involved those matters. And what's more, your chances of successfully changing those relationships are very slim. In my experience, getting yourself involved in whether or not your mom buys your sister a car, for example, is destined to end badly. If your efforts are successful, your sister will likely resent you and your mom may as well (even if she takes your advice). If she does buy the car, you understandably feel rejected. Either way, things between the three of you likely become more strained...and again, I think your sister will do what she wants, car or no car. So no benefit is really gained.

Personally, I would go to counseling yourself. A good counselor will help you distinguish when is the right time to get involved, and when it would only cause you more heartache, and maybe even times when it is not your place to get involved.

I would continue to offer support to your mom, dad and sister individually, in whatever ways you determine are appropriate, while staying out of their interpersonal drama.

I would also let them know that family counseling is an open-ended invitation. And then go with whoever agrees to go. Even if you get one person to agree, hopefully the other two see the benefits and sooner or later agree to come.

Time often helps. I think it will be particularly helpful for your sister, as she needs to mature. I do think your family can heal; I don't think it's permanently broken. I do think you need to prepare yourself as it will likely take years for things to straighten themselves out. And I think you need to take steps to protect your own emotional health in the meantime.

Good luck with whatever you decide.
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