Friday, September 21, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Support of 'problem child' troubles sibling

Support of 'problem child' troubles sibling

Q: My sibling, a "problem child" since childhood, is still dealing with a lot of issues — drug addiction, joblessness, mooching off my parents, etc. When I visited my parents a few months ago, my mother brought up my canceling a visit last year; I refused to go because she had, for the umpteenth time, let my sibling move in, who then began doing drugs again. She said I shouldn't be "meddling in her business" and that how she handles my sibling's issues has nothing to do with me.

As she's gotten older, she's gotten more unreasonable about anyone voicing opposition to her insistence on continuing to support my sibling, despite the fact that her efforts have done no good. I've worked on resolving my feelings with therapy, and know that I can't change her, and can only change how I react to her. What would you advise for talking this out?

Revisiting Old Wound with Mom

A: I would advise not talking this out.

Make peace with it, sure. Set a boundary. Develop a strategy for not reacting. Find a way to understand your mom better so you can respond to her better. Those are all goals for you. To resolve this or talk this "out," though, your mom would have to at least see your point of view, yes?

I suggest limiting your goal to having an honest, productive response to your mom's accusations — one that accurately represents your views.

To start: Agree with her in a limited and highly specific way. "You're right, Mom. I shouldn't be meddling in your business, and how you handle Sib's issues has nothing to do with me." Because she's right. You shouldn't and it doesn't.

And then: "Likewise, how I deal with the situation is my business, including whether I cancel my plans to visit."

Think of it as putting your oxygen mask on first. You can't help if you're not healthy yourself, and that means "opposition to her insistence on continuing to support my sibling" isn't an act of correction, but of conscience. It's an outcome unto itself.

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