Straight Talk: Teens 'n' Twenties

Mother turns to panel for help with sibling rivalry
By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: Help! My first daughter,10, from a previous relationship, and 4-year-old daughter from my current marriage fight constantly. This leads to mini arguments with my husband. Why do they fight so much? How can I help them get along? Perhaps your panelists can look back. ~ Mom in Orange County

Sarah, 19, Santa Clara: My half-siblings are 10 and 11 years younger and we often don’t get along. It is hard to avoid mothering them or resenting the parental attention they get. Reassure your older daughter that she is not being replaced and that you love her dearly. Tell her it makes you happy when your children get along. Spend one-on-one time with her frequently. As she enters her teen years, a close and open relationship will be crucial.

Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: My sister and I are both adopted and we often clash. My mom constantly reminds us to respect each other’s personality. There could be a favoritism issue. Ask why they don’t get along. This will shed light on the matter and be a healthy communication example. Also, finding an activity they both enjoy could give them some happy times together. 

Christina, 19, Marysville: Several siblings and nieces live with me. The ones I fight with most are six and eight years younger than me. They fight constantly with each other, too, over trivial things, mostly due to jealousy. As I’ve gotten older I can see their points of view, but it’s hard when you’re young. Give each child frequent positive attention, and praise them when they are polite. 

Colin, 18, Sacramento: I have a little sister and I’m a better, more patient person because of it (not sure if she is, though –maybe I should have bugged her more). Siblings who get along well are just weird, so please don’t think you have failed as a parent because your children are bitter and petty towards one another. Young children are about as morally developed as your average sociopath. Keep teaching them to be better people and pray that it sinks in. I’m not a parent, but I’m pretty sure that’s what most parents do. 

Dear Mom: Sorry about the apparent inevitability of sibling rivalry. Darn little sociopaths! The panelists enjoyed looking back and offer some great solutions. I agree with Sarah to focus on your 10-year-old. She likely needs extra attention to not feel jealous of siblings who have both a mother and a father in the home. Stepfathers often aren’t bonded, so by all means, drop arguing with him and give her extra loving attention, privately if need be. Also, make sure you’re not succumbing to “pulchri-nomics” (where the cutest gets the most love and attention). Beyond this, your best resource is wisdom.

Counseling, spiritual work, and courses like the Landmark Forum can help you clean up your own act so you can discern what’s going on and bring healing and humor to family conflicts rather than adding to the storm. ~ Lauren

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