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Religion to brainwash teen...

The situation is this- My younger half sister is just 14 y.o.  Our dad and her mother are divorced.  Technically her mom has custody but she has always just floated freely between houses.  Her mom works one of those rotating shift schedules, so she stays with my dad for lengths of time when it works best for Dad & Stepmom to take her to school and activities.  Baby sister also has a tendency to take advantage of this system when one parent makes her mad or she doesn't get her way.  She doesn't come right out and say it, but she'll get the other one to come pick her up and essentially boycot that parent for a while.

In the last probably 3-4 months her grandma (her mom's mom) has sunk her hooks into Baby Sister.  I grew up in the church and am completely fine, and supportive of her going to church and being very active in church youth programs if she wants to be.  The problem is that it seems like her grandparents and the church family she has come into, are really using their beliefs to manipulate her.  It's almost as if she's been brainwashed.  I think it's great if she's making these decisions for herself, but I feel like it's more like they are manipulating my young, impressionable sister.

I know her grandma has essentially bribed her in the past with things like, If you don't cut your hair I'll buy your this or let you do that.  There was also a boy at this church that she really liked and that was a driving point for her at one point too.  That's not the way to get a kid to make good choices.

In just a couple months time, this 14 y.o. has basically lost interest and dropped all of her extra curricular activities for different reasons that have been justified by this church, completely changed the way dresses, does her hair - completely different kid.  And she was very outgoing, involved, vibrant before - not the kind of kid that was messed up with the wrong crowd or anything like that and needed a change.  And now she ostracizes anyone that refutes anything she says related to her church.  She is coming to our Dad's house less and less, and she blocks us on facebook, etc.  The facebook thing seems petty but I live out-of-state and we used to keep in touch that way a lot.

I keep hoping that as she gets a little more mature with age she will be able to make choices about her faith on her own.  If that's what she wants to continue with fine.  I'm just worried that family relationships will be ruined in the process.  My Dad has mentioned doing some counseling sessions with her and she was open to it.  I don't have any experience with that type of thing so wondered what your thoughts are on that?

Please understand that I am not against this denomination in general, just this situation.  How would you handle this?  Have any of you been through a similar situation in your family?

Re: Religion to brainwash teen...

  • To start off, your sister wasn't so great a kid before - manipulating parents and "boycotting" parents who set limits on you, or allowing yourself to be "bought" with material goods isn't the character trait of a great, well-adjusted teenager.

    I think you need to speak to your parents.  Both of them have really dropped the ball.  Your sister might be clining to the church in order to have rules and structure in her life - something that her parents didn't provide and that kids need. 

    I would speak to your dad, since your mother might be touchy about the subject (after all, it's her mother that got sister involved, and as a result your sister is spending more time "on her side."). 

    Your dad needs to enforce his CO if it says he gets visitation EOW or every Wednesday night or whatever.  That means requiring sister to spend time at his house, whether she likes it or not - at 14 you don't get to choose what parents you see.  If he needs to petition for extra time (shared custody, more days with your sis), he should do that for his daughter's well being.  When he is with her, he should actively engage her in outside activities.  Bowling, going out to dinner, spending TIME with her.  Maybe he can offer to take one of her church friends out to pizza so he can get to know her.  He can also enforce bedtimes (if she sleeps there), homework, etc.

    Your dad also needs to co-parent with your mom, even if they don't get along.  If grandma is not a good influence, they need to cut down time with her.  Your dad can ask that when your mom is working late, HE gets to spend time with your sister before your grandma has the opportunity to "babysit."  He should also be able to have some imput into her activities.  If he thinks she spends too much time with the church groups, he needs to limit that just like he would limit any other activity that he doesn't think is good for his daughter (like you would pull a kid off of a high school sports team if their grades weren't good, but maybe allow them to play in a rec league). Obviously, this requires a little more effort on HIS part than he has put forward so far.

    In the meantime, I would just keep making efforts to reach out to her, and realize that she is really probably clinging to this church b/c she is lost and confused (I go to church regularly, so I certainly don't think all people who have faith are lost and confused, far from it, but that's seems to be the reason your sister has turned to church).  Don't take anything personally.  Hopefully she will either grow out of this, or gain some maturity and perspective in a few years.

  • I agree with you totally that she probably needs more structure, and little more discipline.  They never should have let her start with this back and forth when she pleases stuff.  For a while it was working out for everyone, especially her.  But it's gone too far.

    The thing with custody is that he could go try to get full custody, but she'll be 15 this summer.  A judge would grant custody based on who she wants to be with.  This could backfire and put more distance between them.  But she absolutely should be with him and not her grandma when her mom is working or wherever else.  Her mom (who is not mine, she's a half sister) doesn't really like that any of this is going on either.  But for reasons beyond me, she's such a spineless parent and person that she allows this to go on.

  • image cjspencer35:

    I agree with you totally that she probably needs more structure, and little more discipline.  They never should have let her start with this back and forth when she pleases stuff.  For a while it was working out for everyone, especially her.  But it's gone too far.

    The thing with custody is that he could go try to get full custody, but she'll be 15 this summer.  A judge would grant custody based on who she wants to be with.  This could backfire and put more distance between them.  But she absolutely should be with him and not her grandma when her mom is working or wherever else.  Her mom (who is not mine, she's a half sister) doesn't really like that any of this is going on either.  But for reasons beyond me, she's such a spineless parent and person that she allows this to go on.

    Christ on a Cruthch...there is no law or precedence that allows a freaking CHILD to determine what is in his/her best interest.  And no decent JUDGE is going to take JUST a child's wasnts as the main basis for deciding custody.

    A child can be ASKED his/her opinion at ANY time during a custody case, but by a certain age their wants are taking into CONSIDERATION, but any Family Court Judge is going to know that a teenager is going to want to be at the "EASIEST" parents house and take that into consideration too.

    This is the biggest "wives tale" in the visitation/custody world.  And I am not sure which side has perpetuated it more...the Custodial Parent or the Non-Custodial Parent.

    [IMG]http://i633.photobucket.com/albums/uu52/Iluminespics/IMG_4759.jpg[/IMG]
  • As for your sister's attitude...your Father is JUST AS TO BLAME AS the BM and Grandmother.  Until HE steps up and actually IS a father, nothing is going to change.

    And that doesnt mean getting full custody, but you know, enforcing his current Court Ordered Visitation. 

    [IMG]http://i633.photobucket.com/albums/uu52/Iluminespics/IMG_4759.jpg[/IMG]
  • He IS a father to her.  Until recently he spent far more time with her than her mother.  Him and his wife take her to all of her school actvities, go to all the softball games, spend a lot of time practicing with her at home, and she was at their house most of the time.  He couldn't stop her from going to church with her grandparents when she was with her mom, nor did it seem there was any reason to until now.

    I don't really see any advice on the situation at hand in here?

  • I don't know if there is anything yo can do.  She is desperate for love, acceptance, rules, and a place where she feels she fits in, and has found it in the church.  The only thing that can be done is for your dad to go to court, get full custody, and be a strong responsible parent at home.  And not just when it is most convenient.  Your sister is just clinging to the church in a time when she needs structure in her life.
    image Visit The Nest! Love to scrapbook!
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