How do I help my cousin?
For the purpose of this thread I'll call her Annie.
She's 13 now and she's always been fairly irritating as a person but nonetheless I've enjoyed her and her family visiting whenever they do. I love her because she is family but whenever she does visit or we visit she always does infuriating things. An example would be just recently my mum and I were clearing out old toys. There was this Pippi Longstocking toy we've had for years and it reminds my mum of when she gave birth to me and my sister in Sweden. Needless to say it's special to us. Annie had got it dirty and had taken out the braids so it's pretty much ruined. Its not like it was in with all the other toys either and we'd told her what she could play with. She also makes that slime stuff and gets it everywhere, her sheets the carpet, clogs up the toilet etc. She never cleans up after herself, she makes her mum do everything for her, constantly fights with her family, constantly throws fits when she doesn't get what she wants. She told me a few months ago about how she got kicked out of a band. The band was formed before she joined it, but she felt like she should have a say in what kind of music they played. When they wouldn't change their style she kicked off and ultimately got kicked out. She framed this as if they were being unfair but it seemed reasonable to me. Overall she is just very combative, unkind and childish.
Now that all sounds awful and like she's just being a bratty teen but as I have seen her grow up I worry about her future because I know why she acts out like she does and I can't blame her for it. I probably would in her situation too. Just recently my mum told me that Annie's mum found out she was cutting- at thirteen! God my heart just dropped. As I said I find her annoying but I do love her and hearing that crushed me as I have been through it with my sister and multiple friends before. It made me think about why she acts like she does because you don't do that for no reason. Her mother is very controlling, Annie has got in the habit of not doing anything for herself because her mother just does it for her - she still sees Annie as a little kid. Her mother is also extremely stubborn and will not admit wrong even with her daughter cutting herself. I feel like Annie gets her attitude from her mother for this reason. Her father on the other hand is way too lax with discipline so she goes to him if she cant get want she wants from mum. Additionally, a few years ago her older brother by 3 years hurt himself and got a form of PTSD where he would faint and essentially act like he was autistic at times. It was so scary for everyone, he was a different person. I can't imagine how that must have affected her. He is okay now though and plays sports again. Another factor may be that she is very small for her age. She looks closer to 10 than 13. A lot of people treat her like she's younger because of this and it must get frustrating because she is also very intelligent. She doesn't have many friends and has less than 50% attendance at school because she gets 'Ill'. Some of it is real, she gets horrible migraines which they don't know the cause for, and vomiting from allergies. I feel like she uses it as an excuse to get out of school because she hates it so much, she is never ill when we visit. Her mother is now looking for another school and if that fails, will have to resort to homeschooling. I hope it doesn't come to that, I just have a gut feeling it will turn out badly.
I am very aware that I am a role model in her life and she is paying attention to everything I do. I also dropped out of school in my last year of A-level at 18 and I'm worried I've given her ideas. Our current relationship is basically her talking at me and we playfully insult each other, but I know that being told to shut up enough times even as a joke can hurt. How can I help her feel better as she goes through this difficult time in her life? How can I improve out relationship? She is staying for Christmas and I want to make things different this time.
Well I don't entirely blame parenting for your family member's behavior, though I think the mom has certainly done some enabling that has given her the green light to do certain things and feel comfortable with it.
Ultimately you describe a teenager going through things like anyone her age, though some of the way she acts can change and some of it is part of her personality.
It's good that you want to try to be a positive role model to her and help her to improve.
I would say that going to school and being around other people, while it's something I never enjoyed, is important for helping people to get a better idea of social behavior. I think her missing out on so much school has been bad for her early development. People need to learn to face things they don't like, that's part of life.
Like Bunnyhabit, I'm not sure whether you're male or female, but assumed at first that you were a female. I think women are better at communicating with family members than men. How does your sister feel about the situation? Is she as concerned for your family member as yourself?
In al honesty I think your family member will be fine, at least as fine as most other people in the world. But unless she matures I suspect she will continue being kind of annoying to be around.