My cousin is 16. She drinks, does drugs and has sex. she failed math this year and has gone to school and taken tests high. Recently she started going to church and promised to stop this destructive behavior, but she has not. She has a loving family, but she doesn’t seem to connect to them very well, and they fight a lot. Her older brother acted in much the same way, he ended up with a child and spending some time in jail before he died in an accident a few years ago at the age of 21. I am so worried about her. She knows what the consequences of these behaviors could be, but she doesn’t seem to care. She is letting the boys she hooks up with treat her like trash, and i know she has taken at least weed, speed and cough syrup. is there anything I can say that will get through to her?

A. It is difficult to watch someone you care about suffer. As you mentioned, you have attempted to make your cousin aware of the consequences of her dangerous behavior yet it has not stopped her. She most likely does not fully realize that her behavior is destructive.

I would encourage you to continue to voice your concerns to your cousin. You may also want to discuss this matter with your parents or hers. Perhaps one of your parents would be willing to call her parents. If you chose to speak with her parents, you do not have to “tell on her.” You could alert her family about your concerns without being specific about her behavior.

Another idea is to speak to a faculty member (guidance counselor, etc.) at the school about your concerns. In most areas, school is not in session at this time but it will be in the very near future.

You may also want to consider approaching her accompanied by other individuals who share your concerns. Approaching with a group of individuals who all share the same opinions might help to further strengthen your case.

The bottom line is that you can’t control someone else’s behavior. You can and should continue to state your concerns but realize that there is a limit as to how much you can affect someone else’s behavior. That is the unfortunate reality. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Jul 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Talking To My Cousin About Self-Destructive Behavior. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/07/16/talking-to-my-cousin-about-self-destructive-behavior/