Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My teen brother?

Questioner: Darrick

Subject: 14 year old brother sleeping wilth parents

Question: I just recently moved back home after graduating from college a couple months ago, and Im shocked to see that my (half) Brother who is 14 is still sleeping in the bed with my (step) Mom and my Dad.
My dad is a cop and works long hours so he really doesn't have much say in the household. and it seems that after being stricted on my all my life, he has taking a break from raising my little brother.

My (Step) Mom spoils my brother, is in the bathroom with him while he showers, and sleeps in the bed, and never attempting to sleep by himself. I addressed this with my dad, because I don't feel like this is right at all, and he's in so much denial that he gets mad at me for mentioning it.

I feel like the bad guy in the house, and I can't stand to see how Co-Dependent my little brother is. It's sad, and it hurts. I want him to play sports but he says he doen't feel like it and no one is going to force him like my dad did me when I was his age. I think He's going to have big problems when he grews up, I really need so advice because the more I mention it the more they want to kick me out of the house.

Answer: Dear Darrick, Well first of all this is not your responsibility. It is kind and compassionate of you to look out for your family members however their anger it tell you that you cannot fix this!

While every families boundaries are different and are defined by what is comfortable I often tell parents they can know when to pull away physically when the child seems uncomfortable or shows signs of discomfort. For instance I knew it was time for my children to have privacy in the bathroom when they started shutting the door and giving me verbal protesting if I came in.

Some children however don't through these signals out quite so obviously. For instance I noticed some children send of signals with their lack of eye contract and responsiveness although they won't outright verbally protest. Sometimes parents are oblivious to body language or fail to read their child. Setting physical and emotional boundaries in the family environment and having them respected is very crucial to a child's development.

However, it is not uncommon for teens to regress at times and crawl into bed with their parents. What is uncommon is for parents to tolerate this behavior night after night. Mostly because it is uncomfortable even in the largest of beds and it cuts down the opportunity for adult intimacy. So even when my own teens needed comfort I often let them stay until they were "better" and even offered to comfort them in their own bed however, my need for sleep and comfort began to override the need to be the "great" parent.

I suspect the boundaries are blurred here and possibly your leaving as an adult does may have triggered your parents need to be overly sympathetic with your brother. Sometimes when the first child leaves home parents become VERY aware of how fast childhood has past and will slow things down with the remaining children. He is obviously hanging on to childhood and they are obviously allowing him to and hanging on as well. I think you are very brave and courageous to confront your parents.

You may want to tone down the idea of co-dependency or coming across like you think they are all hurting each other with their behavior. People often become very defensive when they think someone is judging them or insinuating they are damaging each other. I would suggest spending some one on one time with each family member separately keeping in mind you cannot control the outcome of this situation you can only verbalize your discomfort and your concern for your family.

Spend some quality time with them and then casually mention your concerns remembering to use I messages. At all times phrase your communication from how it makes you feel using "I" statements. I am emphasizing I statements as people often will not become angry or defensive when authentic, responsible communication takes place. I messages allow them to hear how much you care, how concerned you are all about all of them. I suspect they need your approval right now more than you need theirs.

 Best Wishes!

M Kay Keller