ACP member offers advice to concerned sibling in the Guardian Weekend


Child psychotherapist Helena Cowen is the latest ACP member to offer her expert opinion to real life scenarios featured in the Guardian's Problem Solved column.

This week's problem focuses on a 16-year-old sister who is acting out. The older sister writes that her sister is rude or mean to everyone – family and friends. "She seems angry, but not a normal teenage angry."  The older sister also describes a lack of intimacy from their mother towards them both. 

Helena picks up on the tremendous sense of loss in the younger sister’s life. Advising the older sister that she is more aware of her sister’s problems than she thinks. She talks about how hard it is for adolescents to regulate feelings. "It’s very intense – your sister probably feels really left out.....”

She adds that "it takes confidence to make yourself vulnerable, and confidence comes from feeling secure." She suggests reaching out to her sister in whatever way, or combination of ways, works best (and that may change), either with regular phone calls, letters or Skype. These points of contact, says Helena, will matter to her even if she doesn’t always respond. 

Helena describes adolescence as a very intense time when things are felt very acutely and don’t “always calm down until your 20s. Indeed, there is some evidence that the frontal lobe doesn’t finish developing until the age of 25/26. Sometimes we all need to know that difficult times will end. Also, remember that teenagers often look as if they are not listening and don’t care. But they are, and they do."

Read the full article here