Teen Talk

Teen Talk: Comparison to ‘perfect sister’ rankles younger sibling

DEAR KELLY: My parents are crazy. They expect me to be a clone of my sister, who is perfect. My sister got straight A’s in all AP classes, goes to UCLA and played in the orchestra. She never gave them any problems and stayed home studying all the time. They think she’s been the most amazing and perfect daughter ever.

According to my parents, I’m the exact opposite. I get mostly A’s and a few B’s, but I’m more social and like being with my friends. My friends are great kids, but my parents aren’t fans because they are not little robots like my sister’s friends, who just focus on school and music. Last year I went to dances, basketball and football games and had fun. But because I got A’s and two B’s (both in honors classes), my parents say I focused on socializing more than school and my priorities were wrong. They said until I can prove to them my grades are better, I can’t do social things with school anymore.

I hate my parents and I hate the person they are trying to make me become. Why can’t they accept me as I am and that I’m not perfect? If they take away my friends, I will never forgive them.

The Other Child

DEAR OTHER CHILD: We can’t control our parents, but we can control our thoughts, and you can stop living your life comparing yourself to your sister.

You feel compared to your sister and think your parents value or love her more than you. If this is true of your parents, your feelings are valid and your parents need to speak with a professional counselor or a pastor about their feelings. But I’m not convinced this is the whole issue.

Are you sure your parents are actually saying the things you feel, or is it you who feels this way? Saying you are the “exact opposite of your sister” is wrong. If your parents actually say this to you, then they are off base and being unfair. Of course you are different from your sister. You are different people. But I wouldn’t go as far as to say you are opposites. You don’t get all A’s and B’s without being hard-working and smart. You both get good grades and I’m sure there are many more positive similarities.

Have you tried sitting down with your parents and talking about how you feel? Not yelling at them or calling them crazy, or telling them how much you hate them. Your attitude and your presentation will affect how they hear you and how open they are to what you are saying, If you don’t feel you can talk with them, try to write a letter to them expressing your feelings.

Tell them that you feel as if they compare you to your sister and that you are different. She prefers music and you prefer being social. Let them know that you work hard, view your education and studies as important and want to be successful. But let them know that you need to have some fun in your life, too. Going to school activities such as sporting events or dances is important to helping you enjoy high school and develop a balanced life.

Take the time to listen to their concerns as well. Perhaps they see you spending more time on your cellphone than on your homework. Or maybe they see you procrastinating and having bad time management with your assignments, so they are concerned about your study habits. Try to come to a working compromise where you are still allowed to be a part of school activities if they know you are trying your hardest in school. Most parents (and I hope yours fall into this category) don’t expect perfection, they just want effort.

School and friends are important, but so is family. The more you pull away from your parents the more they will try to hold on and force you to be home. Make sure your balance includes family time.

Don’t hate your parents. Accept them as flawed. Realize that perhaps something in their past created reasons that explain their feelings. Don’t give up on having a relationship with them. Ask for a family counselor or trusted adult to help if nothing changes. Communicate your feelings in a respectful and courteous way. Don’t push away your sister because you are mad at your parents.

Kelly Richardson, a Folsom therapist, works with adolescents.