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Misha

Help to keep my kids close and kind with each other during teen years?

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My eldest dd is a teenager and isn't having the easiest time with it; she's moody and sullen (which is fine, I've been there myself) but she's not always pleasant to her12 year old sister, to whom she's always been very close. 

I understand that she's growing up, but I'd like to do what I can to keep their sister connection and good relationship going. DD2 is hurt because her sister no longer wants to do things like play together and because she doesn't talk to her as much. 

I'd really love to find some activities they can do together - like making candles, or woodworking, whatever. Something that will perhaps remind them of the fun they used to have together and pave the way toward a smoother friendship with one another during this time. 

 

Any suggestions? Words of wisdom? Both are greatly appreciated.

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It probably isn’t the answer for you, but mine bonded over video games.  They played and watched each other play.  My daughter is horrible at most of them.  She held the walk through book/website and offered advice.  My older son did most of the actual play and the younger one looked out for missed chests and things like that.  Younger one learned a lot and was able to get through the games on his own later.  

They still speak fondly of the times they worked together to beat this boss or solve that puzzle.  I think they have plans to do something like this over the winter holiday when everyone is home again.

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1 hour ago, OKBud said:

My sister and I MOST bonded over how crazy our parents were. So... maybe be extremely embarrassing?

Got this one down. No problem at all. 😀

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If it’s any consolation, my mother and her brother detested one another as teens. As adults they are great friends. They still see each other by choice a few times a week and they’re in their 70s. 

I never got along with my sister who is 5 years younger until adulthood and we love being together now. So, even if you can’t ‘fix’ them now there is still great hope. 

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3 hours ago, JenneinCA said:

It probably isn’t the answer for you, but mine bonded over video games.  They played and watched each other play.  My daughter is horrible at most of them.  She held the walk through book/website and offered advice.  My older son did most of the actual play and the younger one looked out for missed chests and things like that.  Younger one learned a lot and was able to get through the games on his own later.  

They still speak fondly of the times they worked together to beat this boss or solve that puzzle.  I think they have plans to do something like this over the winter holiday when everyone is home again.

 This is my kids too. My DS likes it when a family member will play games with him, and it is pretty much the old time is older sister will interact with him in a positive way.

Edited by City Mouse
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Making grand proclamations such as "your sister is your best friend" is not going to work!  I have 6 sisters and the teen years were rough for all of us, we managed to survive and most of us are really close as adults.  I also have 3 daughters, 2 in their 20's and one is a senior in high school, plus a younger son.  I feel like the girls are re-finding each other recently. (Dd17 and ds15 are close and always have been, I thought she might "break up" with him when she became a tween, but their friendship is still going strong. Not sure why, I've never done anything different there, they've just always been close.  I'm feeling a little sorry for ds 15 next year when his sister goes to college!) 

Back to the girls' relationship - Dd17 went to yoga with her older sister over TG and loved it.  They did a few things together and enjoyed each other's company in a way they haven't in a while.  Dd17 is easy going and easy to be around even as a teen, her older sister was more like a prickly cactus during her teen years - she seems to be mellowing out in her 20s. I've noticed that they text each other little memes and photos of their lives. It's interesting to watch your older kids growing from teens into adults and figure out those relationships!! 

I'm looking at this as a way for your dd to stay close to her family, with her sister as an extension of that.  I don't know how to influence a particular bond, but I believe when families are close, friendships endure.  Here are some ideas that seemed to work for my parents and for my own kids - some big and some small (of course, your family culture is different and these ideas may not work for you, there are just things that have worked here at our house)

- Big physical labor together that brings people close.  Not always easy to make teens work! Stacking firewood or shoveling snow or other big body movement service.  It's unfortunately the kind of thing that they don't want to do, but end up looking back later with fondness.  Snow shoveling that ends with sledding and cocoa is an extra bonus.  (our previous house had the longest driveway in history and we spent a lot of "quality family time" angry about shoveling, which morphed into laughing and fun and often a quick sled down our hill and some hot cocoa.) My dad always ended big service with a trip out for ice cream - that seemed to sweeten the day. Those big bad tasks also give the kids the opportunity to have a common enemy (the parent making them suffer), so that helps 😉 

- Accomplish a big goal - we hiked up a frozen river to a frozen waterfall last year, and the girls seemed to really bond over that accomplishment. Hiking to the tallest point, or biking along the full length of the river or other outdoor accomplishments. Those big things that you can say "do you remember when you fell out of the raft in the rapids?" etc. As the girls get older, let them go do some of these without you - within reason!

- Puzzles - easy quiet activity.  Very little competition.  No pressure to participate. (I'm sort of stuck on looking at holiday traditions.  We do puzzles at Christmas, then keep them going through our long snowy winters)

- small art project or craft just casually available on a quiet afternoon - fimo clay is an odd hit around here for teens/college kids.  I have a few packs around for crafting when the big kids come home.  Conversation seems to happen when you don't have to look at each other. I find if I start messing around with something, others will nose around and want to try.  If I say "everyone come try this" I don't always get a lot of interest.

- Move!  There's something about moving across the country where you have no friends that brings siblings together.  Not actually recommended.

- family traditions - family dinner, movie night, dessert on Tuesdays, Sunday Drive, etc.  Things that the family DOES with out question or fanfare.  The grouchy teen may not always participate willingly, but having traditions and following through helps to glue people together.  I find it best to ignore initial bad attitudes - if not mentioned, they tend to fade on their own, but if pointed out they last forever.  I also tend to not really give choices - "hey guys, it's movie night - we are going to the 7pm Small Foot movie - grab your coats" works better for my kids than "do you want to see a movie".  

- family games are not working for dd17.  She gets frustrated and has left crying. Games worked great with kid #1 and even prickly #2, so you just never know! I bought a couple new games for Christmas, so I'm not ready to give up on that yet.

- when older dd drives, let her drive her sister to things - just the two of them.  Church night, piano lessons, etc.  Put a little cash in the cup holder for a drive thru run once in a while.  Give them the space to be friends on their own.

- celebrate each other.  Go to siblings soccer games and concerts whenever possible.

- My mom would say - don't let them share clothes.  She says it is her biggest regret for teens.  We had huge fights over clothes. Sisters who borrow clothes seem to be 82% more likely to lose or stain or shrink shared items.  This hasn't been a big issue at our house, not sure why it was such a terrible big deal when my sisters and I were kids. I'd just keep and eye on this and if one sister takes advantage, put a stop to it!

- teens can be sarcastic and even nasty to younger siblings.  I would discourage mean teasing just like you would tell a toddler not to bite.

- I think there's nothing like a sister.  My dad used to say "Your Sister is your Best Friend" when we would fight.  I hated that, and it made me want to secretly pinch my sister, or something like that!  Don't assume they "aren't friends" when they are cross with each other.  Give them some space and they will likely come back around on their own terms.   Today, my sisters really are my best friends!  Ha! 

Sorry this got so long. Best of luck with your girls. 

 

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I have two girls, and I have no idea. They were close when they were young. Really the youngest just adored the older and would do anything to be around her. When the oldest hit about 12/13, she wasn't so interested in playing with her little sister any more. And I thought that was okay because she was getting older/more mature. So I just explained to the youngest that her sister was growing up. They still played together sometimes, but it was less and less. Then youngest got older and saw that she wasn't interested in playing any more - and they developed new ways of enjoying each other's company. I was scared for when the oldest would leave because they did lots of things together and the youngest still really obviously adored her older sister.

Then the oldest hit 18 and the summer before she left for college was horrible - she wasn't nice to anyone. I had to talk to her about it. When she returned over Christmas break, we were ready to move and not leave a forwarding address (not really, but it felt like it). 

Now fast forward another year - oldest is 20 - youngest will be 18 next week (ahhhhhh). She is a sweet girl again, and both sisters enjoy hanging out together and chatting (and PMs/texts). But it works best if the time together is limited.

Both girls have grown and changed. They still like each other, but their relationship is now different - no more adoration on the part of the youngest - but a friendly love for each other, I think. I'll be interested to see how their relationship grows/changes from her.

But mostly I stayed out of it. You weren't allowed to be mean/say mean things. You had to be civil. If you couldn't, you could stay in your room until you could be civil. You might not have to play with your sister, but you had to be civil.

Good luck!

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Family trips and outings always seemed to bring our children closer together, especially when they were of an age when they could go off and do some things alone together.  Their choices were either being with us the whole time, or going off on their own but being together!

Also, treating each other respectfully was always required -- even if they didn't feel like it.  It was a good habit to work on forming.  Of course that didn't mean they did it all the time!  But at least it became imbedded in their minds that it was a good thing to strive for.

I think it's absolutely fascinating how children coming from the same family and very similar experiences can grow up to be so very different.  There's a chance your children will grow up to be best friends, but I think generally it goes beyond that.  That is, there's probably a better chance that they WON'T be best friends (as we tend to think of it), but they'll have a respect and commitment and bond that's in a category all its own.  

So, don't be discouraged if they don't appear to be "best friends."  Help them learn how to treat each other respectfully and basically be decent human beings, and they'll form that lifetime bond.

Edited by J-rap

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