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proexpert37, Educator/Life Coach
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My sister in law is divorced with three children ages 16,14

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My sister in law is divorced with three children ages 16,14 & 8. For the past 2 years she has been on medication for her mental health as she had a breakdown. We, her sisters and myself have always been on hand to give her support and help and we thought she was improving, but, in recent months things are starting to slide back and we are very concerned about her. Her eldest daughter is causing her major concern, she had her boyfriend staying at my sister in laws, he does not work, she is still at school, when my sis in law protested she went to live at his house. She does not contrbute to the house in any way and when asked to do the simplest things she just says no, she is rude, abusive and a bully and unfortunately my sister in law does not have the strength to combat this behaviour. We have tried talking to her but she says 'it's not her problem and she will do as she likes, we dont live there it's nothing to do with us'. Where do we go from here, her ex husband lives over an hour away, he only sees the children once every two weeks for a few hours, he frankly is less that useless and just says we don't know how to handle them and are too critical. We have tried getting to extra support for her as we cannot be there all the time, she has one sister who lives close by but everyone else lives quite a distance away. how do we deal with this rude, manipulative destructive behaviour.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  proexpert37 replied 5 years ago.
Hello and Thank you for using Just Answer. The 16 year old is having a difficult time in her life as she is soon to be an adult. She is struggling with teen age feelings and how she thinks an adult should behave. Obviously, her boyfriend is influencing her in negative ways as well. She probably is under a great deal of peer pressure. The next route you may pursue is counseling....not just from a pediatrician. She needs on going psychological counseling to make her realize the damage that she is doing to herself and her family. She needs to learn intervention and coping strategies in how to relate to people in a positive manner and how to help herself. If she is performing poorly at school, start with a school counselor or psychologist. Then seek outside professional assistance. She may have repressed issues about the divorce, negative feelings like she has to care for the younger children, and negative feelings toward her mom. You must uncover the causes of her behavior and address those issues without just dismissing her behavior as typical teen disobedience.

Let me know if you have further concerns.
Expert:  proexpert37 replied 5 years ago.
Here are some other suggestions in helping the eldest child gathered from The National Runaway Society:

Be open to communication when everybody is calm. Set up the time and place that communication can take place. Trying to talk about serious issues on the ride to school isn’t enough time. Having a discussion right after a parent gets home from work or a youth from school may not be the best of circumstances. Think about when to talk, where to talk, what to talk about, and who should be involved.

Don’t expect the other party to be able to read your mind. You must say what you’re feeling. Your feelings are important and you should share them. Let the other person know you have something to say, then say it and be prepared to talk about it. Let the other party voice his/her opinion as well.

Define what is up for negotiation. Teens know that parents must have some rules. Patents must be firm but also
be willing to compromise. Teens need to know they have to be willing to compromise as well. You can’t just ask your parents for everything you want and expect to get it without giving something as well. Your parents may set limits on how often you can go out on the weekend because they want you to spend more time with the family. If you want to go to a party on a Saturday night would you be willing to spend Sunday with your family?

Brainstorm ideas together. Remember the key to brainstorming is to not instantly reject an idea. Everything gets looked at for its pro’s and con’s.

Conflict is inevitable. It’s normal to fight sometimes. Don’t bear grudges. Be respectful toward each other. It’s better to get it out as it happens. It’s not fair to bring up an incident from eight months ago only when you got really angry today. Try to avoid blaming and accusatory language. It doesn’t always have to be someone’s fault.

Do fun things together. Try to appreciate what the other person is interested in. Or do something that’s completely new. Take vacations. Get outside. Spend time separate from the rest of the family. Enjoy your time together.

Recognize when a situation needs professional assistance. The key to family counseling is that it involves the entire family. If the family can participate in developing criteria for family counseling, the odds are better that it will work. How often should the family go? Who should go? Who should we see? Does anyone want individual time with the counselor? Parents should go to counseling even if a teen won’t. It shows that the parent is serious about getting help and making things better. Parents can benefit from counseling as well.

Reinforce good communication by being a good role model. Thank people for telling you how they feel. Let them know you appreciate it when they come to you with issues. Tell them you enjoy hearing about their day when good things happen so that when bad things happen they can come to you as well.

The key is to communicate!

Have a great day!
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