I'm a 23 year old sister who's worried about her brother. He's 17 years old.

Our parents got separated last year after having an abusive relationship for decades, and now my two younger siblings and I live with our mother.

Previously he was forced to at least go to school, despite not studying and failing a few of his exams. I have been insisting for two years that he comes to the doctor with me because I think he probably has ADHD. But he always refuses. Now he's too old to be controlled and forced into anything, and he does not go to school anymore, spends all of his time outside and most nights doesn't even come home. We don't know where and with who he spends his time; he never answers when we ask. He smokes (judging by the smell on his clothes and the lighters in his pockets), instantly wastes any money he receives from our mother, and has no respect for her. He just yells at her demanding spending money and speaks very rudely, which I think is caused by him witnessing our father insulting and being rude to her for several years. He doesn't even care about his hygiene and is unwilling to end his friendship with his destructive and bad-influence friends. All we want from him is to go to school and avoid drugs (not saying that he does drugs, but we wouldn't know if he does). He's been just out of control in the past year (since the separation, because before that, he could be controlled by our strict and controlling father).

I have been unable to have peace, and I'm constantly worried about him and would do anything to help him become more mature and responsible. He refuses to visit a therapist or a counselor either alone or with his mother. I visited a therapist to discuss my family issues, but her only response was that I should stop caring and it's not my responsibility and at this age I should only focus on my own life and studies. But unfortunately it doesn't work this way and I'd be unable to shake off the guilt if I let him destroy himself. My mother is just giving up on him because she's attempted rewarding and punishing etc. and none of it works.

I do not have a close relationship with him, despite wanting to have one, because we have nothing in common and I do not want to be a second mom to him, but a cool older sister he can trust and be comfortable with.

I'm at a loss at this point. How do you think I should behave? How can I help him? Should I stop worrying and trying to control him and instead let him choose his own path?

I'm afraid that the family behaving like he's a failure further alienates him from us, but if we do not behave harshly about his situation, he might find it rewarding and continue this.

Is it because he lacks love and support from his family and is constantly judged for his behavior? Does he need freedom or should he be limited? Does our disappointment in him make him hate us?

I know that he's intellectually smarter than many of his peers, but he's wasting it. Also I was always successful in school and him often getting compared with me might have negatively affected his attitude.

  • 3
    I think I can help you but if I write a longer answer the mods will just delete it. For a start, consider how he's supposed to "trust and be comfortable with" someone who wishes to control him. Oct 1, 2023 at 12:01
  • 4
    There are two sayings I repeat often: "You can't help someone who doesn't want help," and "You can't control anyone but yourself." There's no one formula for helping someone who doesn't recognize the damage they are doing to themselves or others, and it's not necessarily anyone's "fault". "I'd be unable to shake off the guilt if I let him destroy himself." It's not your job to shape his life; what choices do you have? It's incredibly hard to watch someone you love act self-destructively, but there is little you can do. Oct 1, 2023 at 15:00


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