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  1. #1
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    Parenting a sibling

    To put a long story short, in two weeks my dad goes to jail and I need to take charge of my 17-year-old brother. I'm only 19 myself, so this is going to be a big challenge financially and emotionally. I took the semester off of college (or ran out of money for tuition anyway) so I have more free time to devout to keeping my brother out of trouble.

    I was hoping someone would have advice. My brother is getting himself into a lot of trouble. He's stealing, dealing drugs, always high on something, and drinking. He has girls sleep over and he refuses to go to school. I love my brother to death and want to try and help him the best I can. My dad let him do whatever he wanted but now that I'm in charge of him, I was hoping I could set some rules and at least keep him from landing himself in jail until he turns 18.

    He's an amazing artist and wants to be a graphic designer. He's always talking about studying at the Art Institute in Philadelphia but he'll never get there if he gets caught with drugs or never finishes high school. I just want to do everything I can to help him out without being an enabler.

    My mom, who can't take him and lives far away, suggested that I just let him have friends over, so he's not running the streets. I was going to not let him have any friends over at all because when he does they always end up doing drugs, or they come in for a second just to buy some. But the problem with that is that they have stolen a lot of things from my dad's house and they're not very trustworthy. They're also a lot bigger than me, I'm 5'4 and 115 pounds. It's really hard to keep them in line.

    But if I don't let him have friends over, he may never come home and get himself into trouble. How can I make things nice for him so that he still hangs out at home without having to worry about kids I can't trust? Is there even anything I can do for him, or is there a point where he can be too far gone? I could really use some advice because I am majorly over my head right now and I'm pretty scared.

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  3. #2
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    i would suggest calling your local childrens services or foster care outlet and asking a social worker for advice. with you being only 2 years older than him, i would be worried about him accepting any authority from you. i would ask if there's any programs for near-adults that could help him or both of you, b/c he sounds like a big responsibility when you have your own concerns about school, etc. your mom really should be the one taking him in, not pushing the responsibility off on you...

  4. #3
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    I have had to do this a few times, too. Continue to be "the sister", and let him know you just want to make sure he isn't taken away, since he's still technically underage. My family is the poster child for disfunctional families, and I'm only now, 28 years into life, starting to understand how things could have been different! "Hang out" with him, be in his space, talk to him about people you know who didn't get their diplomas, (this kept my youngest brother from dropping out like the rest of us!), encourage him to go to school and talk up art and design jobs. It's hard to control what a person of his age is doing, so don't try too hard. Just remind him all the time that you want to make sure he doesn't get in trouble, and that he's not taken away from you. Do you have any older siblings that are around that might be able to step in and help out? I guess my advice is to just continue to be his sister, don't try to move into a parental role. That might distance him and take away all influence you have on him. Good luck. I wish I had something really insightful to say except "Good luck".

  5. #4
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    If he honestly wants to go to school and change his life, see about enrolling him in Job Corps. I don't know what it's all about now, but almost 20 years ago, my uncle did it and he said it's the best change he ever made in his life. He finished school, got his GED and learned a trade (painting) that he loves. He's never had a problem getting a job, either.

  6. #5
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    you can't "parent" a sibling. it's NOT YOUR JOB, and in the long run, it's not going to be good for you or your brother. if he doesn't want to obey your house rules, he's more than old enough to find another place to live. if he's going to end up in jail, nothing you can do is going to prevent it from happening.

    one of my hardest-learned lessons is that you can't save a family member from fucking up their own life in the way of their chosing. if he's commiting crimes and doing drugs, the best thing you can do for both of you is to protect yourself from his lifestyle by showing him some "tough love" and telling him to get his act together or find his own place.

    it sounds harsh, but trust me, you don't want to tie yourself to his sinking ship. if he wants to turn his life around, at this point, it's HIS choice. you can't make him do it.

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by stella
    it sounds harsh, but trust me, you don't want to tie yourself to his sinking ship. if he wants to turn his life around, at this point, it's HIS choice. you can't make him do it.
    Stella's advice is brutal - but I think she's totally right.

    He's 17. He can make choices for himself. Even if you were his parent (which you're not) you'd have very little authority over him at this stage.

    I'd also suggest that you call your local social services people. This is too big for you to deal with on your own, and that's ok.

    Please, get some help. You have a right to have a life, too. And to be safe. His lifestyle puts you at risk if you share a home with him. Call social services.

    del

  8. #7
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    Stella said it best...she's absolutely right.

    It seems like everyone in your family, and social services have abdicated their responsibilty to both of you. I would think that your father and his lawyer should have developed a more approriate plan for you. It's ridiculous to expect a 17 year old to listen to a 19 year old, and it's just a nightmare to think that everyone is placing this responsibility on your shoulders. You should be out having fun, getting educated and growing up.

    As a last resort, you could always move out. Speak to social services on your brother's behalf, but do not stay in a place that is at best miserable, and at worst, downright dangerous.

  9. #8
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    Thanks for all the advice, everyone, but I can't really throw my brother into foster care for the last few months he's a minor. That would be a worst case scenerio for me. My brother isn't an idiot so I'm hoping he'll have enough sense to realize the delicate nature of the situation and be on his best behavior. I talked to him about it and we seem to have come to an understanding.

    Although a lot of what everyone has said seems like sound advice, it's hard to write my brother off like that. He's definitely a handful, but I can imagine how horrible it feels for him to be thrown away by both our parents and our large extended family. I won't do that to him too. At the very least, I'll give him the opportunity to show that he can stay out of trouble. I think everyone deserves at least one chance.

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by audra
    I have had to do this a few times, too. Continue to be "the sister", and let him know you just want to make sure he isn't taken away, since he's still technically underage. My family is the poster child for disfunctional families, and I'm only now, 28 years into life, starting to understand how things could have been different! "Hang out" with him, be in his space, talk to him about people you know who didn't get their diplomas, (this kept my youngest brother from dropping out like the rest of us!), encourage him to go to school and talk up art and design jobs. It's hard to control what a person of his age is doing, so don't try too hard. Just remind him all the time that you want to make sure he doesn't get in trouble, and that he's not taken away from you. Do you have any older siblings that are around that might be able to step in and help out? I guess my advice is to just continue to be his sister, don't try to move into a parental role. That might distance him and take away all influence you have on him. Good luck. I wish I had something really insightful to say except "Good luck".
    Thanks for the advice. This is kind of what I decided on. I have a boyfriend who my brother is slightly prone to listening to, and he's more than willing to stop by and lend a hand if I need him to. Also, when I laid down the "rules" for my brother, I tried to stick to the ones my parents were using. He needs to call at least once a day so I know he's alive, he should avoid getting arrested, stuff like that. Just so I know he's not out on the streets or anything.

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sjkmaurice
    If he honestly wants to go to school and change his life, see about enrolling him in Job Corps. I don't know what it's all about now, but almost 20 years ago, my uncle did it and he said it's the best change he ever made in his life. He finished school, got his GED and learned a trade (painting) that he loves. He's never had a problem getting a job, either.
    We're trying to get him back into school before next Friday when my dad leaves. He got thrown out, so we thought he was just being a punk or whatever, but when we asked him about it, it just turns out they switched teachers in his graphic design classes. His new teacher was treating him really poorly so he walked out. We can probably get him in the same class as his old teacher.


 
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