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12 year old half sister coming to live with us... need advice!

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I have a half sister (we have the same dad) who lives two states away.  I am in my late 20's, married and have a 4 and 7 year old children.  I met my half sister only once when she was 4/5 years old (due to distance).  I have maintained a phone/Facebook/letter writing relationship with my sister and her mom since then.  My dad and my sister's mom are divorced and have been for a decade.


A couple weeks ago, my sister's mom asked if my sister could come live with us.  YES!  Absolutely.  My sister's mom has a slew of mental health issues and says she just can't parent her anymore.  Okay, fine.  My dad is in a bad position right now and can not parent at this time.


Can anyone give me some advice/resources/suggestions/ideas on how to introduce her into our household and effectively parent her?  She will be with us for a minimum of a year.  I think she had abandonment issues and perhaps ADHD.  It was suggested that due to the way she grew up- her mom sleeping when things got stressful and her mom having several boyfriends/husbands that she may have some for of Post Traumatic Stress.  Not sure.


Anyway, I want to stress stability and family while she's here.  She's also failing school and I want her grades to come up.


Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 6

It's hard to give advice, without knowing for sure what problems you're going to have.  For example, her grades are a problem, but it doesn't sound like you know why, yet.


The only concrete thought that comes to mind is:  what will determine how long she stays with you?  It sounds like she could use the actual stability of knowing, "This is where I'm going to live - and these are the people who will take care of me - until I go to college.  And this is a place I can come home to, even after that."  Yet, you've described expecting her to be with you for a "minimum of a year".  Is her mother in some sort of program that may make her better-able to parent, later?  Or is your father expected to improve and want her back?  Are you willing to keep her permanently?  


It seems like being able to tell her what to expect long-term would be important, although she may not feel confident enough to ask.  But I don't know how stable she can really feel, if she thinks this arrangement will be indefinitely temporary.


Good for you, for welcoming her, though!  That's no small commitment to take on, but a very kind one!

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Jeannie, thank you for your reply.


The reason why she is failing school is because, according to her, she doesn't want to do the work.  She's very bright but has just given up.  I think it's due to her mom sleeping whenever she is stressed, upset, etc. and not paying attention to her because she (her mom) has given up.  I guess there is no reason to do anything if the result is the same at home.


I'm not really sure how long the arrangement will be.  I figure if things work out for the next couple of months, I will file for guardianship (custody) through the court over the summer so that it is permanent.  Her mom said for at least a year but basically said until my sister is ready to go back to her.  Problem is, I don't know if she will ever want to go back with her.  Yes, it's that bad.  So long as her being here doesn't negatively affect my relationship with my husband and children, she is more than welcome to stay here indefinitely.  My dad won't be in a position to parent for awhile and I don't know how things will pan out with her mom.  But no, she is not in any sort of a program for anything. She has never lived with our father.


I guess I just don't know what to expect from a "normal" 12 year old so any advice or book/website suggestions are welcomed. 



post #4 of 6

I imagine she will need a lot of love, a stable and predictable routine, and clear expectations. It might be useful to establish routine "check-ins" like family meetings or dinner dates with her so talk about how things are going. I imagine she may be used to doing things on her own and taking care of herself, so she might find comfort in being taken care of, but at the same time might have a hard time trusting that you will be there consistently and have a hard time adjusting to living by someone else's rules. 


Therapy might be useful, even if she is doing well, because I imagine she could use someone to talk to and process all this with. She might be worried about hurting your feelings if she is too honest or getting in trouble if she bad-mouths her mom or whatever.


Obviously, I'm just making guesses over cyberspace, so it's hard to know much without knowing her at all... but from the back story you gave, that would be my guess. For whatever it's worth.

post #5 of 6


Originally Posted by Christian_mom View Post

I guess I just don't know what to expect from a "normal" 12 year old so any advice or book/website suggestions are welcomed. 



12 year old girls can be quite difficult. You might read through some of the old threads on the teen boards, keeping in mind that moms are talking about their biological children who've been APed!  Some days, they are like trying to love a cactus. (My DDs are 12 and 14).


I agree with getting her into counseling. Find someone with experience with adolescents who is willing to work with you on some parenting techniques with her. She has stuff to talk about.


I'd also try to find her an activity that she likes -- anything will work.  A swim team. A dance class. A pottery class. Anything that sounds like fun to her.


As far as school work, I'd want to find out why she isn't doing well. Does she have ADD or mental health problems that impact her ability to learn? Has she had an eval? How are her basic math and reading skills? Is there anything you guys could be doing over the summer to help  her be more successful next year?  I wouldn't assume that the whole problem with her school work is her mother and that a change of address will fix it.



post #6 of 6
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