Sisters Don’t Get Along

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

my older daughter is 17 she does very well in school and does several sports. recently my husband point blank asked my 17 year lod if she loved her sister (10 years old) and she said no. This has been going on for the last 3 years and has progressively gotten worse! She will not eat dinner with us (because her sister is there) or do anything if her sister is included. My younger daughter actually looks up to her but knows she hates her. this is very stressful on us being parents and don’t know what to do. we have tried to take her to counseling but she refused . she recently said she wants to live with her aunt in another state. We have another daughter in college and she agrees with us how hateful and angry my 17 year old can get

A: I’m very sorry that you are dealing with something so painful in your family. It’s not at all usual or normal for an older sister to be competing with a sister who is so much younger. I have to wonder why your 17-year-old feels so insecure in spite of all her accomplishments that she pushes her little sister so far away. Did something happen when baby sister was born that meant way less time and attention for her? Can you think of anything that happened three years ago that makes her feel like her little sister is unfairly favored? Sometimes teens create drama to telegraph that they need help. Is your teen’s behavior a signal that there’s something she can’t tell you? Does your oldest have any insights into the situation?

I know you tried counseling but I think you should try again. Even if your teen doesn’t go, you and your husband and the other kids can benefit from counseling. An experienced counselor will try to help you figure out what’s going on so you can start to work on it. Further, your youngest is unfairly taking the brunt of whatever is bothering big sis. She may need some extra support so that she knows it’s not her fault. Working together as a family, you may find a way to engage your teen and to help her.

You made an important first step by reaching out to us here. Please follow through and find a family therapist who can help you get to the bottom of this and repair the relationships in your family.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Dec 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Sisters Don’t Get Along. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/12/26/sisters-dont-get-along/