Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Parenting & Relationships

Consider getting sisters away from emotionally abusive stepmother

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Consider getting sisters out of loveless environment

Q: I'm in college now, but I have two sisters who are still living at home with my father and stepmother. My mom died a few years ago after a long, drawn-out battle with cancer. This was extremely hard on my sisters, who were only 7 years old at the time.

What made it more difficult is that my dad was married again within six months of the funeral.

My stepmother had a conversation with us when she first moved in and told us that she was not our mom and would not be raising us. She told me, as she thought of me as an adult at the time, that she doesn't like kids and wanted nothing to do with me or my sisters.

I told my dad about this, and he shrugged it off and said she'd come around.

It's been a few years and nothing has changed. My sisters tell me that she won't even acknowledge their presence when in the same room.

I've tried to talk with my dad about this, and he says it's between him and his wife. Is there anything I can do for my sisters?


A: Wow — at the same time I want to cry and kick somebody. This is awful.

My first thought is, do you have any other relatives who would open their hearts and homes to your sisters? Or is there another responsible adult in their lives you can approach?

Whenever I get a question like this, I always put myself in the position of a potential guardian, and I think yes, I'd accept the responsibility (or else I couldn't in good conscience advise it). I have to think many, if not most people, would feel the same.

The second thought is much harder and riskier, since it involves your becoming their guardian — and essentially giving up your young adulthood.

You'd obviously have to weigh the benefit of the home you could provide, which would be immature and financially unstable but loving, against the benefit of their current environment, which is stable but loveless.

However, there would be no harm in your just exploring that option, if you're willing, to see if it's even realistic to try — financially, legally, emotionally.

You likely have access to counseling services through your college. Please make an appointment either way and talk to someone about what's going on. Also, try placing a call to the Childhelp hotline at toll-free 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453). This is a great source for a reality check on whether your sisters are better off staying put, and how you can help them.

Obviously both of these ideas rest on the assumption that your father would surrender custody, but that doesn't seem like a stretch. He's allowing his kids to be emotionally abused before his eyes; I don't see him fighting to keep them at home, unless you spur an epiphany.

It says good things about you that you care enough about your sisters to talk to your dad on their behalf. It also might be their best chance: Even if there's no practical way to give them a more welcoming home, your loving, consistent presence in their lives can be the bread crumb trail that leads them out of the woods.


Tell Me About It: Overwhelmed parent weighs out options

Overwhelmed parent weighs out optionsQ: Since my kids were born, my job basically covered the cost of day care. The kids came home overtired and overstimulated.As they became preschool age, I restructured my work to freelance so I could drop off and ...
Published: 12/12/17

Tell Me About It: Identity of biological father is revealed

Identity of biological father is revealedQ: When I was 18, my mother revealed that the father I grew up with was not my biological father. She claimed she didnít even know my bio father, and never contacted him again after their brief weekend fling a...
Published: 12/11/17

Tell Me About It: Parentsí extreme sheltering feels creepy

Parentsí extreme sheltering feels creepyQ: My daughter, 11, has three friends from school. One girlís parents are generous hosts. "Emma" is an only child and has a pool, fun toys, great snacks.The problem is that Emmaís parents donít let Emma be a gu...
Published: 12/10/17
Top things to do for the week of Dec. 11-17

Top things to do for the week of Dec. 11-17

Katy Perry: The Teenage Dream songstress roars into Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Friday ($45.75-$195.75). amaliearena.com. Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights begins Tuesday, bringing fun celebrations including Hanukkah in the City at the Sundial St. ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Wild weather expected, 2 boat parades canceled

Boat parades that were planned tonight in South Pasadena and St. Pete Beach have been canceled because of weather fears.Organizers said they will not be rescheduled. Heavy rain is expected to approach the gulf coast near sunset Friday ahead of a stro...
Published: 12/08/17
Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

Fun and profound Hanukkah celebrations around the Tampa Bay area

It’s time to observe the Festival of Lights, starting at sunset Tuesday and ending Dec. 20. Many congregations seem to be having a great time, because Hanukkah celebrations this year are hilarious. There’s a menorah made of fidget spinne...
Published: 12/08/17
From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

From Hogwarts Castle to your home, digital projectors give a real light show

At night, Hogwarts Castle is suddenly dusted with snow in steamy Florida. It’s not really snow, but light causing this trick of the eye. Projectors and sophisticated software then send ghosts across the castle towers. A turret spins and turns i...
Published: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Self-awareness best way to break bad habit

Self-awareness best way to break bad habitQ: I recently had a friend tell me that I have become arrogant since I entered a new career in which thereís a culture of snobbery and one-upping.I was defensive, and would really have liked to believe she wa...
Published: 12/08/17

Tell Me About It: Exís attempt to make amends falls flat

Exís attempt to make amends falls flatQ: My first love e-mailed me out of the blue, after 10 years, to make amends as part of his AA program. The lengthy e-mail detailed my exís love for me, regrets, and urged me to consider a phone call or FaceTime ...
Published: 12/07/17
Three shades of comedy this week: Game Grumps Live, Harlem Globetrotters, Liberal Redneck comedy tour

Three shades of comedy this week: Game Grumps Live, Harlem Globetrotters, Liberal Redneck comedy tour

VIDEO STARS: Game Grumps LiveYou thought video game players were wasting their time, but these days professional players are packing stadiums and making more money than youíll ever see. They also give us hilarious shows like Game Grumps Live, coming...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17