How to help raise 15 year old sister?

Heather - posted on 04/12/2012 ( 1 mom has responded )

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I know this may be the wrong place to ask this, but I thought out of everyone, you lovely ladies on this forum may be the best people to gather advice from because of possible similar personal experiences.

My mother passed away suddenly in February, leaving my father to raise my fifteen year old sister by himself. Both of my parents had been critically ill throughout 2011 (mom with COPD, dad with cancer), but both were on the mend. They had been high school sweethearts, together for nearly thirty years, with their twenty-sixth wedding anniversary occurring in March, all too soon after her passing. Needless to say, he is taking it hard - we all are.

I am twenty-four and engaged; while currently childless, my fiance and I had thought about starting a family two to three years after our upcoming wedding in January. We lived together for a year before my parents simultaneously fell ill in 2011, but I moved in with a few roommates back in our home city to be closer to them during that time. Our original plan was to move upstate upon his graduation in May so I would be able to start the remainder of my second degree, but after my mother passed, I moved back in with my father and sister, for which he was grateful. Around this same time, I accepted a full time promotion at the third shift hospital job I had in order to help with my personal bills in order not to be an additional burden.

With all of that said (in order to get a good idea of our family setting), my father is having a difficult time adjusting to being a single parent, and my younger sister is already starting to test her boundaries. It has been small things thus far - dying her hair, cutting it herself (multiple times, even after being told not to do so), trying to skip school. While I know the hair issue stems from the fact these are things my mother didn't allow and it is a way of her rebelling, and I *know* it could always be worse and everyone grieves in their own way, I am concerned she may branch out further during the summer to rebel in worse ways.

Already she has proudly told me she had made out with someone for the first time. Perhaps in the past this would not have bothered me, but with all of the events occurring recently, it made me uncomfortable, especially when I took into consideration she had only met the individual a few days prior.

My father is not expecting me to help raise her, but he wants my help while he gets his bearings as a single parent. I think he is afraid of his cancer reoccurring, potentially leaving me to be her sole caretaker, hence his inclination to ask my input. His decision on her care is the "ultimate" call, meaning of course I would never go against his wishes for how to raise her, but he wants my help on the smaller issues, especially when it comes to being a female figure in her life.

I don't know where to begin to help raise a teenager, especially considering I have no children of my own. I want to help give her the most stable environment possible, but I am afraid she will continue to push harder and harder against any attempt to stabilize things around the house, particularly one coming from an older sibling, even with my father's wishes. She has always been a good kid, but I am afraid for her, especially considering she will be driving soon, which opens up more doors for a rebelling teen.

Does anyone have any advice or personal experience which may help in this issue? I would appreciate any and every idea any of you may have. Thank you in advance.

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[deleted account]

Hi Heather,
Though I don't have any experience raising a teenager, I did lose my mother when I was 15 as well. Now that I am 32 (and I am very close to my father) I can look back and see the mistakes we both made. I cannot stress how if it's possible to find your sister therapy or someone to talk to. 15 is such a critical time in a young girls life. She is lucky to have an older sister. Your role is so important. It's also important for you to remain her sister not try to become her mother. I had an older cousin who was my angel. She was always there for me and never criticized me. She listened, hugged and gave me good advice. My dad kept no structure for me as a teenager. I came and went as I pleased and it made me feel like he didn't care. Though it may seem fruitless to your dad, setting rules and boundaries and keeping will help your sister in the long run. And my dad never talked about my mom. It drove me nuts that we had to pretend like she didn't exist. I think if my dad would have been more honest and shared his feelings with me It would have helped me heal. I was looking to him to see how he reacted and he was a statue. I had so many feelings but he wasn't approachable. The best thing I can say is keep the communication open. Teenagers process grief so much different than adults. Maybe there is group in your area for children who have loss a parent? She really will need some one to talk to. I cannot tell how much I know that would have helped me, probably would still help me now. My condolences on the loss your mother. Take care

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