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Sister! Sister?


Dear Life Coach,

I am 35 years old and I have a sister who is 10 years my junior. When she was a child, my sister was always in trouble. At age 18, she became a mother after she rebelled and left home. I saw the pain my mother endured; she was heartbroken having raised us without a father. Despite everything, my sister and I have always had a good rapport and I have always encouraged her to do the right thing, although she never listens. My sister has two children (ages 7 and 5) in foster care.{{more}} I have a 10-year-old daughter, and a 6-year-old son. Our mother is now deceased. Six months ago my sister got a new job near to where I live and asked if she could stay with me (and my children) since she could not afford the cost of rent. I agreed. For the first three months everything was fine, but now I am beginning to regret my decision to house her. Over the past two months, she has been influencing my daughter negatively: she asked her if she has a boyfriend yet; she bought an outfit for her that is inappropriate; and she is encouraging her to use make-up. Whenever I am disciplining my daughter, she puts herself right in the middle; opposing my correction and telling me that I am unfair. I have noticed that my daughter’s positive attitude towards me is slowly changing for the worse. I love my sister and I want to help her but I feel as if she beginning to ruin my family life. I also do not want to lose her. She is the closest family that I have. What should I do?

Faithful Sister (FS)

Dear FS,

A sibling bond is one of those highly treasured gifts in life. It is painful for you when this relationship is fraught with so much conflict.

Your Situation:

Several factors appear to be at work here: sibling relationship, parenting style, family values, communication, separate households, among others. I will address each briefly.

Sibling Relationship

Sibling relationships exist throughout the lifespan for most adults. These relationships may be close, apathetic or filled with rivalry. Adult siblings often provide practical and emotional support to each other.

Parenting Styles

Adult members of the same household tend to have different parenting styles as each person tends to use one of the three parenting styles (rigid rules; excessive freedom; and a balance between guidance and freedom) more than the others which often create conflicts.

Family Values

Siblings tend to have different values, ambitions, goals and dreams. As a result adult siblings who live together are often in conflict as they view things differently. This is one reason that adults create their own space (home) where they are free to express their own lifestyle and values.


Communication among adult members within the family around discipline is crucial since adults need to share a united front in terms of discipline. This helps to reduce confusion about rules and expectations as well as disobedience on the part of the children.

What to Do:
  •  Talk with your SisterBe gentle but firmRemind her that you care about her
  • Remind her that she is welcome in your home but she must do her part in maintaining the household rules
  • Ask her how it has been for her being in your home and address any legitimate concerns
  • Review with her the disciplinary measures that you have chosen to use with your children
  • Stress the importance of a united front in terms of disciplining the children
  • Review your expectations for your children’s dress code, issues relating to puberty (cosmetics, boy-girl relationships etc)
  • Encourage your Sister to Get her own Apartment
  • Encourage her to be independent
  • Work out a time line with her for finding her own apartment (unless you want an indefinite living arrangement with her)
  • Offer to assist her with the search and the setting up of a new place

Prepare for a Negative Response

If despite your best efforts your sister takes offense and refuses to comply with your request, then you may have to make a decision to have her leave in the short-term for the benefit of the children. This depends on how strongly you feel about the situation. If you decide to have your sister leave, then it may be important to do the following:

  • Let her know the reason for your decision
  • Give her enough time to find a place eg. 3 months
  • Monitor the relationship/communication between her and the children
  • Let your daughter know that the decision about what she should do or not do rests with you and not with her aunt
  • Let your sister know that her lifestyle may be fine for her but you have chosen to raise your children differently
  • Try to be as amicable and calm as you can with your sister and let her know that you still love her.
  • You may still offer to assist her in finding somewhere and helping her to get set up

FS, at the end of the day, we all have to chose the road we wish to travel, and when it concerns children, it is of utmost importance.

Life Coach


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