Teen Talk

Teen Talk: Older half-siblings’ group chat leaves her feeling left out

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: I have three half-siblings who are all from my dad’s first marriage. Two of them are old enough that they don’t live at home, and one splits time between his mom and dad’s house, but is more with his mom. I’ve always thought we were really close until recently.

We’ve had group chat between us for like three years. Sometimes we make fun of each other or our parents or friends, and sometimes I’ll tell them things that are stressing me out like grades or if my mom or dad gets mad at me for stupid things. I’ve always trusted them. Last week I found out that they have a separate group chat that doesn’t include me. It was totally random how I found out.

When I asked my brother, he was kind of weird about it at first and just said it was to talk about things I wouldn’t understand, like his mom or family members on her side. I knew he was lying, so I asked to look at it just so I could see for myself what they talk about and he said, “No.” I kept asking and it turned into a huge yelling match.

Finally, he told me the truth that they do talk about my mom sometimes and things about her that bug them. I told him that was OK and it wouldn’t bother me to read it because she bugs me, too. He still wouldn’t let me read any of the texts. He said they say things like they think my mom pushes me too hard in school to get all A’s, or that sometimes I act like my mom and get super competitive with other people or try to look perfect. I had no idea they didn’t like my mom, so I was so upset. He said they do like her but sometimes she annoys them and they didn’t want to put me in a weird place, so they have a group chat about things like that.

What do I do? If I tell my dad, he will be mad at them and then I’ll seem like a snitch and they’ll probably talk badly about me in their group text. If I don’t tell, then I worry they will continue to hate my mom and I’ll feel bad knowing this. If I tell my mom, I know she’ll be so upset because she always says things to other people like, “They are just like my own kids and we have the best relationship.” I feel so alone and I can’t stop thinking that they lied to me for many years when I never did anything wrong to them. Please help me.

Sad And Stressed Sister

DEAR SISTER: Sometimes we need to step back from a situation to be able to think clearly and see the whole picture instead of just our version. When we feel hurt or slighted, we tend to approach the situation more emotionally than logically.

Feeling left out is a common feeling in middle school or high school. While I don’t know a teenager who hasn’t felt left out at some point, your situation is different because it is with your family, the last people we expect to exclude us.

While I can’t speak for your siblings, I’m going to take a stab at what might have happened. They might not have thought they were leaving you out but rather they were protecting you from being put in an awkward situation. Yes, your mom annoys you at times, but when others talk about our parents it’s hard to hear them being bashed. Your siblings were probably trying to not put you in that position.

Perhaps your siblings should have thought it out better and chose to voice their opinions about your mom when they were face to face rather than texting, but depending on where they live, texting might be their best form of communication. Since your brother spends time with both his mom and dad, maybe he uses their group text to talk about family matters that don’t involve you. By no means are your feelings wrong, just that there are two sides to this story. I don’t think you were dissed by them to the extent you think you were.

Do they love you? Absolutely. Do they like your mom? Your brother confirmed that they do. Does this mean that you don’t matter to them or they are trying to be sneaky with you? No. It simply means that they talk about family issues and wanted to avoid involving you. The other thing is that perhaps they talk about more adult things. If they are trying to be positive role models for you, maybe they are censoring what they say because it’s not appropriate for someone still in middle school or high school.

If they live close, ask if you can all four go have lunch or coffee. If they live far away, perhaps you ask for a group Skype so you can all communicate. If that doesn’t work or feels too threatening, send out a text to them simply telling them how you feel. “I am hurt because I feel left out and talked about. I know you might have things to say that don’t pertain to me, but I felt like because we are family we could talk about anything. Can anyone explain to me why?”

Then let them speak up and share. Listen with an open mind and a forgiving heart. Don’t ask to see that group text feed; that is private and could be even more hurtful to read. See if you can resolve this in a manner that makes you feel connected to them but also understanding that they have a right to continue talking among themselves if it is not appropriate for you to be a part.

You still have a good family. You aren’t alone and they care about you. They honestly never lied to you, they just didn’t tell you some of their concerns. What they did was not against you, it was to shield you. Communicate your feelings. Hopefully once they know how hurt you are, they can help you feel better about the situation and come up with a solution where you feel respected, encouraged and included by them.