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What to do about my Sister?

(156 Posts)
happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 02:21:30

As the title suggests, I don't know what to do about my sister.

Background is this:

There are three siblings: me (29) my brother (27) and my sister (20). I left home at 19 to go to University and I never moved back, went straight to London afterwards to start work. I've never really had a close relationship with my sister as I left home when she was 9. My brother left school and did an apprentiship as a mechanic and has been doing that ever since. He gave my parents a lot of grief from the age of about 16 and treated them like utter crap until a few years ago. They bailed him out numerous times (driving without insurance, without MOT etc) and he has owed them money for years with no real drive to pay them back (despite earning double their combined income now). He moved out at around 18/19 as well as my parents couldn't take living with him anymore - my father was on the verge of a heart attack every time they had a screaming match he was so angry. He moved back a couple of times down the years until he moved out to Australia 3 years ago.

I also moved out to Australia last year and since both me and my brother now live here my parents also want to move and have put in a visa application to come (a long held dream to move here even before we moved out).

So to my sister - she's always been a bit of the 'odd one out' really. As there was quite a gap in ages between us she's been like an only child since my brother and I moved out. My parents, I think, have pandered to her, she's done whatever she likes whenever she likes. Because if she didn't get her own way her fiery temper would unleash - my mums a sensitive soul, any little thing sets her off so she'd just back off and leave her alone.

This, I think, has got us into the current situation.

She finished her A'levels at school last year and had not applied to go to University as she didn't know if she wanted to. She finished school and would spend her whole day in bed because she had spent the whole night on the internet and on the xbox. She had a part-time job cleaning at her old school, but it was only 15 hours a week. This went on for 6 months with my parents having constant battles with her over what she was going to do with her life - to which she didn't know and would refuse to talk to them about it, she'd just shut herself in her room. She decided to apply for university, but didn't get on the course she wanted (she only wanted to do one course at one university - wouldn't apply anywhere else or for anything else).

So my parents, feeling guilty that they wanted to move to Australia decided that the best thing to do would be to enrol her in University in Australia and she'd come out and live with us. Now as she's not a resident or citizen this means she's an international student and has to pay international student fees - currently $10,000 per semester ($20,000 per year / £12,700). Now my parents are not wealthy by any stretch and have spent most of their life struggling from one credit card to the next. These fees have to be paid up front - there is no student loan for international students. My sister thought this was a great idea, she'd come to university in Oz and 'start again' - get away from the Computer and its hold on her and start afresh. The proviso was that my parents would pay the first semester and then she would get a job to pay the next semester's fees (she is allowed to work 20 hours a week and could easily have saved up).

My brother and I agreed that she could stay with us and initially she went to stay with my brother (as he has a 5 bed house and we have a 2 bed flat). My brother works away for 2 weeks at a time and comes home for a week - so she was with his fiancé most of the time. This seemed to work for a while as she was company for her. But this came to a head 3 weeks ago when his fiancé basically kicked her out due to arguments over cleaning the house. She just wouldn't do it - she'd clean up after herself but was doing nothing else to contribute to the house (they paid for everything, including her food) so his fiancé got fed up and said she should come and live with me and my husband.

So she's now with us. But I'm worried about her. She has gone back (or never really stopped) to being on the computer all night and spending all her time in bed in her room. Over this weekend she has probably spent around 1 hour outside of her room since Friday evening and it's now Monday morning. She comes out for dinner (because I make it for her) and then goes straight back in again. She goes to sleep at around 4am and doesn't get up until 2pm, and then still stays in bed on her Computer, maybe getting up and having a shower at 6pm. She has not joined any groups at university, she's missing lectures and classes because she can't get out of bed to go to them in a morning. She doesn't meet anyone after class, doesn't go anywhere on a weekend. She doesn't eat anything other than dinner in an evening - and that's only because I've made it for her. She's as white as a sheet because she doesn't go outside!

She hasn't got a job since she?s been here because 'she wasn't ready yet' and refused to talk about it with me. She won?t talk to my husband and seems painfully shy and awkward around him, which is making for an awkward living situation for us (when she comes out of her room that is).

So, I just don't know what to do for the best here. My parents are talking about putting her next semester fees on their credit card (due in Feb) but I'm just not sure the answer is to keep throwing money at her and paying for everything. We're all going home at Christmas because my brother is getting married in England, and I'm thinking it would just be better if she didn't come back and tried to make a life in England rather than my parents keep spending money on her out here. But then I think the problems would just remain there too.

This is all stressful for us because obviously having a third adult in the house is costing us money - especially since she's on the internet all the time (we had a limit of 8GB a month for broadband, it's only the 15th and it's all gone) and she's using so much electricity in her room it's heated up by it all! My husband isn't working because he was laid off in August, so it's just me earning and I feel like I didn't sign up to pay for my sister with her contributing nothing and not making a go of a life here for herself. I feel like it would be all worth it if I could see a change in her, and she was going out and having a good time - gaining some self-confidence, but she's not.

I know if I go back to my mum with this she's going to be devastated and equally I'm not sure how to talk to my sister as everything I say she gets defensive and shuts down.

I'm really sorry for the essay, I just don't know where to turn! sad

kiwigirl42 Mon 15-Oct-12 02:36:58

You sound like a very kind person. Is your sister depressed at all? It sounds like she is aimless which must be quite scary, especially when moving halfway round the world at what may not have really been her own choice.
I m sure you are frustrated with all the financial implications but your parents really should know so they can deal with it
Are there not any student support services at Uni etc?

Hopefully you will get a lot better advice in the morning - I just did not want you feeling that your message had not been noted. I hope DH gets a new job soon too

izzyizin Mon 15-Oct-12 02:46:46

It's a long time until Christmas!

Now your broadband's been used up for the month, does this mean your dsis won't be able to access the net?

Do you have a mains electric box with separate fuses for different rooms in your apartment? If so, remove the fuse that supplies your dsis's room with electricity when you go to bed -as this fuse may also supply sockets/lighting elsewhere check that it won't put the plug on your fridge/freezer!

As it seems you can't talk to your dsis - or, rather, you can but she won't listen - hand her a letter expressing the concerns you've raised here and explaining that, as there's no such thing as a free lunch, you won't be cooking any more meals for her until such time as she gets off her lazy sulky arse her act together, attends uni on time, and shows that's she looking for p/time work to support herself/her studies.

If you've got the werewithal you could give her an alternative which is that you'll book her a flight back to the UK now and will make the necessary call to your dps to explain her change of plan, but I'd advise keeping this as a plan B.

You're acting in loco parentis and shouldn't have any qualms about exercising the tough love your dsis is sorely in need of to prevent her continuing to be a royal pain in the neck to anyone who has the misfortune to offer her room and board and, outside of your family, who's going to be fool enough to do that?

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 03:16:26

kiwigirl42 I thought that this morning when I was chatting it through with DH - whether she was depressed. I'm not really sure what the signs are, but being shut away by yourself all the time surely isn't good for anyone. I know I'd feel pretty desperate not having anyone I felt I could talk to.

The thing is, before she came out here she'd talk to me on instant messenger saying how excited she was about coming over, how she was looking forward to a fresh start. Even she said that she wanted to break out of being on the computer all the time. We thought coming over and going to University would be a good thing - meet new people, take on some independence. But it just doesn't seem to have happened at all. She tells me she does speak to people at Uni and has made some friends, but this doesn't seem to translate into anything outside of Uni. Maybe it would have been better if she was living on campus and taking care of herself, but that wasn't an option due to funds.

izzyizin - yes means no internet for the moment, but as DH is job hunting he needs the internet to be working to apply for jobs. So I've had to order a new broadband package which will be 'unlimited', means more expense (new router $129 plus an extra $40 a month for unlimited) but I didn't feel we had much choice! After discussing it this morning DH and I have decided that we will turn the internet off when we go to bed (and bring the router into our room!) so that she can't access it all night (and will hopefully therefore go to sleep).

We don't have seperate sockets in the apartment so she will still have access to electricity in her room, don't think we can go so far as to switch that off! She doesn't have TV channels in there as the TV isn't hooked up to anything other than her Xbox. We could take that away I guess, but I don't want to push her too far.

You're right, without us she's straight back to England, she needs to understand this and have some kind of reality check. I'm going to try and talk to her this evening, maybe suggest a walk (as she won't talk if DH is in the vicinity) and ask her if she's happy, what she's getting out of being here and where she see's things going.

I'm just feeling a bit tired of all the family drama, I feel like I'm a constand go-between for my parents and my brother and sister - as my parents think I'm the 'sensible one' and I'm here to sort everything out. I've enough on trying to keep DH's spirits up!!

Toomanycuppas Mon 15-Oct-12 03:28:54

Hello Happygolucky, I'm in Sydney <waves>.

What a dilemma.

Which visa is your sister here on?

Where are your parents at the moment?

Does she actually want to be at uni?

Clearly your sister has been babied all her life and unfortunately your parents haven't taught her life skills so she doesn't know how to behave as a house guest. No wonder your Brother's fiancee asked her to leave.

She can't possibly expect to continue on to a second year at uni if she hasn't completed her very first semester (exam/final assessment time is right now), hasn't got a job and is not capable of paying the international fees. Your parents would be crazy to consider putting a debt of $10,000 on their credit card for a course your sister does not attend.

All of you need to put on a united front with her. Shape up or ship out! Get a job and pay for uni if she wants to stay, although I fail to see how she could even earn enough to pay $10,000 every six months on her own with her track record.

She does sound like she needs counselling for her dependency on the computer which could be facilitated by Student Services at uni if she was willing to approach them.

If you can't resolve the most pressing issue of her not attending uni, it looks like you and your DH will be stuck with her in your spare room indefinitely which will obviously affect your own relationship.

Best of luck with your new life in Oz smile

BessieMcBean Mon 15-Oct-12 03:35:04

Poor girl. And poor you happygo.

It's as if she has some sort of arrested development, as if she is still a hapless teenager. Being so shy of your DH is a bit strange at her age.

What about approaching the University and seeing if there is some counselling or support groups for new students who might hold her hand for a while. I don't think she could cope with living on her own in student accommodation - she might just starve.

To be honest she sounds as if she might have some sort of psychological problems and maybe a visit to the university doctor might be of use. There must be lots of students who have trouble adapting to university life.

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 03:57:17

Toomanycuppas - My sister is on a temp student visa, valid for the length of her course which is 3 years. Entitles her to part-time 20 hours a week work during term time and full-time work during the holidays.

Parents are still in the UK, they submitted a parental visa application in August, but will take around 18 months for that to be sorted out for them to come out.

I think she wants to be at Uni, as far as I can tell she has been doing her assignments and going to exams/tests. If she misses classes or lectures she is downloading them and listening to them online (probably why we have no broadband left!). She has told me she is worried she won't do very well and panics about it - but so far she's done well on any tests or exams, and she is very clever, but just doesn't give herself any credit and always thinks she's rubbish. She also says she hasn't got a job because she wants to concentrate on that after her exams in November, but it's a little too late then in terms of managing to save anything up - especially as she's going back to England for 3 weeks over Christmas.

I was thinking an email to student services might be in order, see if anything is offered to help her. Although persuading her to speak to anyone else might be a challenge in itself. She point blank refuses to ask anyone for help.

BessieMcBean It's not just DH she won't talk to, it's pretty much anyone! When she first arrived in Oz we thought it would be nice to take her away to Margaret River with some friends who were visiting from England. They tried their best to talk to her and have a conversation, but it was one word answers or complete silence with a shrug. It was pretty embarrasing TBH!

And you're right, if I didn't feed her once a day she would just starve! I can't believe she survives on just that, I can't function without 3 meals a day!

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Mon 15-Oct-12 04:04:27

It sounds like a bad situation all round, but I don't think you're doing her any favours by pandering to her

How does your husband feel about her living with you? It must be difficult in a small living space, is he happy with how things are?

You have done a lovely thing having her with you but no one could blame you of you said enough is enough. She is an adult and not even your own child, there is no reason you should be supporting her and it's sounds as if she's not pulling her weight in other ways either. You have a right to be relaxed and happy in your own home and so does your husband

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 04:13:10

Dh is pretty easy going really, he was happy enough to let her come and live with us. He just thinks the same as me, we are happy to help her and let her live with us for free if we can see that it's of some benefit to her and she's pulling her weight. Now that we think that isn't going to happen he also thinks something needs to be done about it as we aren't a charity and she's not our child.

You're right May we do have a right to be comfortable in our own home, I just know my Mum is going to be so upset and feels totally lost when it comes to my sister. She doesn't know what to do with her either, and I know that if I say she should go back to England they will think their Oz dream is over because they won't be able to leave her homeless in the UK to come over here.

Toomanycuppas Mon 15-Oct-12 04:38:59

happy can you get some rules in place with her while your parents go through the emigration process? I feel so strongly that they shouldn't be paying for her uni fees if she is capable of working herself. My DD1 is just about to finish a double degree and still found time to work and save, along with most other students in her course, so it's not like it's impossible.

To start with she needs to be contributing to the household by doing chores and cooking if she isn't paying anything towards her keep. Are your parents still giving her money to live on?

Sorry if I sound like I'm ranting but it's just that I can see your sister turning out like my 46 year old brother who does have a job but is still like a teenager, brings his washing to my 77 year old mother and she cooks for him. If you help her to become more independent now, it will benefit the whole family in the long run.

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 05:08:07

Toomany Don't worry about the ranting, I'm constantly ranting about this to DH! She should be contributing, there is no way she's not capable of working, but she just didn't want to go outside her comfort zone. My parents made it clear to her they could not afford to pay all her fees and if she wanted to go to Oz she would have to make some attempt at helping to pay them (even if she'd shown willing and mustered up a quarter of them at least she'd have tried).

She's just got her own way for too long, if she doesn't want to do something she just doesn't do it. I had a job from the age of 14, did paper rounds, worked in Savers, dry cleaners, waitressing, clothes shops, call centres - I've always worked. She went to work at a call centre and lasted 2 hours as someone was mean on the phone so she went home crying.

My parents aren't giving her any money at the moment, she came out in July with $1,600 in her bank account and is still living off that. She doesn't spend any money if she just sits in her room all day!

I've just sent an email to the student support office at the university basically outlining everything and saying we are worried about her mental health. Hate going behind her back but I know if I spoke to her about it she'd refuse to acknowledge anything was wrong.

saffronwblue Mon 15-Oct-12 05:20:15

I know you don't want to upset your parents but they need to know that it is not really working. You can't protect them. I think there is often a misconspetion that changing countries will make problems go away and sadly this is not always true.
I think a calm discussion with your sister, restriction of computer, sharing of household duties and a focus on uni might help. I don't envy you - this is a difficult position for you to be in, basically picking up the pieces because she has been very indulged.

Toomanycuppas Mon 15-Oct-12 05:31:47

I hope you get some assistance, if your DS will accept it, from Student Services. I know there is a whole lot of services available.

Definitely disabling the internet connection when you and your DH go to bed is a good idea. I don't think there's much you can do about her playing Xbox all night.

When she comes out of her room for dinner, she shouldn't go back in until she has cleaned up the kitchen and washed the dishes. That's the least she can do on a daily basis, whether or not your DH is currently at home.

The semester will be over very shortly and she will have time to go and do some casual work until you go on your trip back to England. Can you say that if she doesn't make an effort to get work for that shor time, she's not welcome to return with you?

I do feel for you and I also feel for her as I know what it's like starting a whole new life in a new place, even if they think they speak the same language. Getting out there is key to the settling in process.

Timetoask Mon 15-Oct-12 05:38:00

Do you know, maybe I am stating the obvious but I think she has an addiction. Just like you can be addicted to drugs, alcohol, etc, she is addicted to the computer.
I think it will be kind to be hard on her. Ban the computer, she can only log on for specific hours a day, you will wake her up to foto lectures, rules! Otherwise she goes back to the uk. Tough love, otherwise she is letting her life slip away.

daffydowndilly Mon 15-Oct-12 08:12:32

I feel a little for her, as you stated in your OP she is the 'odd one out' and possibly really feels that way too (from the way you are talking about her). To he honest, sending an 18 year old to live in England - the other side of the world - from her parents seems cruel. All of it just strikes he as terrible timing. If my parents had emigrated when I was 18 I would have been besides myself, she might be an adult but is still maturing, particularly if she is the youngest by quite a bit. Perhaps she is finding it hard, now living in Aus away from her friends and everything she knows. Not everyone adapts well. It doesn't sound like she is at all close to you, from what you have said. Perhaps she is addicted too to computers, that is more and more common, and an escape from her emotions. And if she is living in your house, and you are 'constantly ranting about this to your DH' she is likely to have noticed and what a way for her to live. I tihnk I would be hiding in my room too.

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 08:20:17

Time - You know, I've spoken to Mum quite a few times about the amount of time my DSis devotes to the Computer and I've always said she's got a problem, an addiction to it. My parents acknowledged that it was an issue, but just didn't know what to do about it, so it was left to continue.

I have been insisting she clears up after dinner and we do this together, I have to stand and direct her as to what needs doing (otherwise she just stands there) litterally "pick up the cloth, spray that, and wipe the side". I also did make her clean the bathroom yesterday, so she is capable of doing it, just has to be asked and given explicit detail in how to do it.

I did suggest she cooks for us once a week, but the one time she did it she made such a performance over how much she hated it and how she can't cook, that I haven't ventured it again - I'll have to try and make her do this as well.

clam Mon 15-Oct-12 08:23:37

Wow! I wish you were my sister! How nice are you?

The possible mental health issue is a major fly in the ointment (on many levels) as it's preventing you from doing what you need to do which is to get tough. Really tough. Although I'm not really sure why being depressed means you can't help out around the house when asked. You might not want to do it, but you're not physically incapable.

For a start I'd not only switch off the router overnight, but I'd charge her for the additional package you've just had to buy. If she has $1600 for living expenses then that's fair. She must pull her weight around the house and you need to get really tough on that.

Sounds to me as though she's been pandered to all her life and has ended up with a massive sense of entitlement. Don't enable her any longer. You're doing an immense amount for her and she's taking the piss.

Your dh sounds extremely tolerant also. Most would have lost it by now I'd have thought.

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 08:25:57

daffy I understand what you are saying, but she's not 18, she's 20. No-body moved her to the otherside of the world against her wishes, it was totally her decision - she suggested University here to do a certain course years ago before I even moved here.

Nope we aren't close and I've never pretended that we are, but I want to support her and help her.

And when I say ranting to DH, I would never do this in front of her, or even when she is in the flat - and for me a 'rant' is to quietly discuss what we are going to do to help her in our own bedroom. DH and I live very happily together, so there is no hostility towards her or anyone else in our home.

clam Mon 15-Oct-12 08:26:44

daffydowndilly have you read this thread properly? She wasn't "sent" to Oz, she wanted to go and has watched her parents spend 12K they can't afford on a university place she's throwing away.
And "feeling the odd one out" is self-indulgent nonsense. She's 20 years old and needs to grow up, as her sister has done.

snooter Mon 15-Oct-12 08:47:32

She might be depressed but I suspect she's just immature & selfish. She's basically behaving like spoilt brat because she's always been pandered to in the past. I think you've been more than reasonable & need to keep being tough with her. You might have to set a deadline for asking her to leave if things don't improve.

AgathaFusty Mon 15-Oct-12 08:50:15

happygolucky - what was your sister like as a young child, and growing up? Has she always been withdrawn? Has she always had problems relating to people or is this a more recent thing? Was she ok at primary school and the start of secondary? Has she ever had friends, or was she always quite solitary?

cocolepew Mon 15-Oct-12 08:59:51

I agre with clam and snooter. Your DH isn't working so she should be contributing to the household expenses, if she won't get a job she can use her savings. Work out how much she needs to pay every month and a rota for chores. Don't stand explaining how to clean, she knows rightly. Doing that and moaning about cooking is just a way to get out of being asked.

She's taking the piss.

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 09:03:19

Agatha as a young child I think she was happy, primary school was where things started to get difficult I think. She never had close friends and one thing I remember my mum getting upset about was when she used to wave her off on the bus for a school trip and she'd be sat at the front with the teacher because she didn't have a friend to sit next to. sad

My parents decided not to send her to the local high school (where both my brother and I went) as all the same people from primary school were going there. They managed to get her into a different school further away, with a whole new set of people.

I don't really know much from her high school years as I wasn't around for this, but she had a few friends, mainly boys (never any boyfriends) who she'd hang out with and play computer games with. She's never been out drinking (never been drunk) and thinks that all people who drink are stupid shock so seems to have bypassed that whole rebellious teenager thing.

She's certainly always been quite solitary, even whilst living at home with my parents.

DH just text - she's just emerged from her room (4pm here) having missed all her lectures for today. She appologised for using up all the internet - but it was 'worth it' apparently (I think she was watching that guy jump from space). She's now gone to Uni to do some work as there is no internet at home and won't be back til late. So that screws up my plans of taking her out and chatting this over tonight!

clam Mon 15-Oct-12 09:22:55

"Worth it" to whom? Those of you are are paying the bill and now have no internet coverage for the rest of the month and didn't get the benefits of watching the guy jumping from space either?

She hasn't gone to Uni to do some work. She's gone to surf the internet for free again, now your "useless" set-up has run out for her.
She is Taking. The. Piss.

happygoluckyinOz Mon 15-Oct-12 09:31:52

Thanks clam makes me feel like I'm not going mad!

I text her to find out what what she was doing and when - she said not to bother cooking as she doesn't know when she'll be back. She also asked if I'd tried to wake her up this morning (I had, as I knew she had to be in at 8.30) and she thought it was funny that she couldn't really remember. I pointed out this was probably because she'd only just gone to sleep and she said she was watching the guy jump from space and it was 'worth it, very worth it may have used up the internet though, sorry... but was still worth it' this made my blood boil - but I remained calm and just pointed out it was difficult for DH to job search with no internet. Got another appology but apparently watching the jump was so 'exhilarating'.

I've had to put my phone in the drawer as I do not want to have a go at her over text. She is blissfully unaware that we are annoyed at her over this.....and breathe.....!

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