Asking for a Friend: Help! My sister is making my home life unbearable

  • This week we discuss how to handle arguments at home, time management skills and what to do about acne
  • If you have difficult, embarrassing or awkward questions to ask about teen life, send them in anonymously, and ‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to help you
Amalissa Hall |

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Do you (or a friend) have any questions that you desperately need answered? Don't be afraid to talk to us!

Hi Friend,
My home is always full of arguments, which I really hate. I think this is because of my younger sister, who is 14, as almost every quarrel starts with her. She will shout and cry if my mother doesn’t side with her, or lose her temper when she doesn’t want to finish her homework and housework. Last night, she even fought with my older sister for almost an hour over a piece of meat!

However, my younger sister is sick, and the doctor says this illness makes her feel irritable, so my father says we need to back down even when she’s wrong. I don’t think this is fair, but there is no use saying this. So, I go on my phone more to avoid fighting with her, but that backfires because she says I prefer my phone to talking to her. I tried to talk to her, but she just lost her temper again! She only stopped shouting at me after I said sorry and my mother pretended to punish me.

What should I do? Can you give me some advice?
Thanks very much, Family Feud

Hi Family,
It sounds like there is lots of stress in your house, and I’m sorry that you are experiencing this. You and your older sister need to sit down and clearly explain to your parents how the situation is affecting you both, and you may all need to change the way you cope.

Ultimately your parents need to help your younger sister understand that even though she is ill and that she is going through something that the rest of you cannot know, she can’t rule the family with her demands. You can definitely do things to make her feel more comfortable, but if your parents continue like this, she will grow up learning that she can get away with this behaviour and this will be a long term issue for all of you.

It is clear that you support your sister, but not her actions. If speaking to her is difficult,  try writing a letter explaining how her actions make you feel. If she is shouting at you, calmly reply “please stop shouting at me” and if she persists, you could try “I will not speak to you unless you stop shouting”. Doing this will show that her shouting will not have an effect on your decisions, and that she will have to speak to you appropriately to have a conversation.

However you can’t just ignore her, because it seems as though she is acting this way for attention. Maybe you need to listen to her and find out why she is doing and saying these things? I don’t know if this is something your family can do, but what about speaking to a family therapist about her feelings? She is probably experiencing some emotions that she cannot fully express, which is why she lashes out at small things. 

You need to all sit down as a family and set clear boundaries about what is and what isn’t okay. For example, if she’s getting frustrated, maybe she needs some time to cool down before speaking. Or if you are already in an argument, your parents cannot just pretend to punish you to keep the peace. 

This may not be easy for her to digest, but if your family expresses that these changes come from a place of patience and love, she may learn to change the way she treats your family as a whole. I hope you can all find some peace.
Friend of a Friend

Help! How can I be successful when I failed my mock IB exams?

Dear Friend of a Friend, 
I’ve recently started secondary school, and there are definitely more tests and quizzes than primary school. In primary school, we only had tests twice a week, but now we have at least a few every week. I feel the pressure is coming at me from all directions, and I don’t have really good time management skills, so I struggle to study. Could you please help me? 
Yours sincerely, Falling Behind

Dear Falling,
Time management is such an essential life skill, and it’s best to learn it sooner rather than later. The most important thing to do is to be organised. Keep a diary to note down the big tests or assignments that you need to finish for the month, and write down the small tasks you can finish every week or everyday. By seeing what it is you need to do, you are aware of your deadlines and you can break down the work into manageable chunks.

Make sure that your materials are organised too. Have a separate folder for each subject and divide it up into each topic, and then each test. Make notes every day after class - don’t leave it all until the end when you need to study!  Doing a little bit every day, rather than everything at once, will definitely help you feel less stressed. Then keep all your notes organised within your folder system so you know where everything is. I would also recommend finishing your work one or two days before it is due, to give yourself time to review it.

The best thing is to speak to your teachers and ask for their advice if you feel like you’re falling behind. They’ll be able to support you. You can also ask your family members to check in with you to help make sure you are on track, or study with your friends to keep each other accountable.  

Figure out your study style so you don’t waste time on methods that don’t help you.

Lastly, don’t stress yourself out by thinking about how much you have to do! It will only make you feel overwhelmed. Remember to take care of yourself. 
Good luck, Friend of a Friend

Help! How do I discuss mental health as a guy?

Hi Friend,
I am currently struggling with acne. I’ve had acne for a long time and it frustrates me a lot.

Although I know that it’s normal for teenagers to have pimples and spots because of hormones, I still have major insecurities about it. Every time I look in the mirror, I feel disgusted and embarrassed. Other girls in my grade usually have clear skin, or only have a few pimples here and there.

My forehead looks like the surface of the moon. I always compare myself to others and am jealous of them. I shower often, clean my face regularly, have a healthy diet, drink lots of water, sleep early, and do everything that people recommend, however, my skin stays the same! 

What should I do? I really hope that you can give me some advice.
Thank you, Not Over the Moon

Dear Not Over, 
Based on your current routine, it sounds like it’s hormonal acne, and there's not much else you can do other than wait for it to pass, or see a dermatologist if you can. They would be able to assess your skin properly and prescribe you topical treatments or medication.

In terms of what you can do at home right now, just make sure you that you change your pillow cases frequently, as oil and bacteria from your hair and face will transfer when you sleep. Change your towels often as well, and use separate towels for your face. 

Simplify your skin care routine, and use products with active ingredients such as salicylic acid, as that is a great one for targeting acne. However don’t use anything too harsh or drying! It may aggravate your skin and cause it to produce more oil, and therefore more acne.

Make sure you are using a simple moisturiser to replenish any moisture your other products might take away. You can also use hydrocolloid stickers on your spots overnight, as they may be able to tame some of the larger spots that have come to the surface. 

Lastly, be kinder to yourself. Stress is a known trigger for acne, so don’t worry so much about other people. This is not forever, and your skin does not define you. Focus on other aspects about you that you feel proud of! Your skills, your talents, your strengths – all of these things are of greater value than the texture of your skin. 
Take care, Friend of a Friend

If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please send an email to [email protected] with “Asking for a Friend” in the subject line. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous! 

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