Therapist’s note: This is a summary of a letter I received but with the facts substantially changed to protect the writer.
A teen wrote of a very complicated history where siblings and half-siblings have been shuffled back and forth between various parents and various countries. She has been with her mother and in America the longest. After several years of feeling close to older siblings, they are distancing from her. She doesn’t think she’s changed but does indicate that she’s been shirking on chores and her mom makes her older siblings do them. She says she feels like her whole family hates her and asks, “what happened? Is it because I’m a lazy bum or something else?”
A: What a complicated, complicated story. It sounds like none of the kids knows for sure whether they are truly in the family or out of it. Whatever the adults’ good reasons may have been, from a kid’s point of view, it is hard to feel secure when you have no say in where you will be or with whom.
Without sitting down to talk with all of you, all I can do is make a few guesses. For example: Some kids respond to this kind of situation by not letting themselves get too attached to anyone. That way, it doesn’t hurt so much if they are uprooted again. By getting close to you, your siblings opened themselves up to be in more pain if they had to go again. So they distanced from you. Or — You’ve been in America and with your mom the longest. Could it be that the other kids are jealous? or — They see you as the favored child because you’re getting away with not doing your chores. They may resent you for being special and for creating more work for them. Or — It may be that your siblings are angry about the whole situation but are too afraid to be angry with the parents (who could move them yet again) so they take their anger out on you. Or — something else. Something this complicated can’t really be fully explained in a letter.
I really don’t think your siblings hate you. They probably hate feeling so out of control.
I’m so, so sorry that life has been so unstable for all the kids all these years. And I’m especially sad that you are feeling rejected by sisters you look up to. You kids need each other. I hope you can find a way to talk with your siblings and make friends again. Maybe it would go better if you worked on one at a time.
I hope these ideas help just a little.
I wish you well.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jul 2009
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). She feels like her family hates her. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/07/22/she-feels-like-her-family-hates-her/