Please can you help me find the right thing to say to 12-year-old DD about high-achieving younger sister
Samanthasimaginaryfriend · 28/06/2020 10:56
I have two DDs, DD1 is 12.5, DD2 is 10.
DD1is a great all-rounder, a bright, funny, friendly girl who loves and is very good at music, does well at school, is a sociable chatterbox who enjoys having visitors to the house, talking to her friends etc. She's very emotionally mature i.e. she's quick to understand what is upsetting her and why and to talk to me about it. She's a bit scatter-brained and finds it hard to focus at times.
DD2 is wonderful and funny and full of character but an annoying person to have as a younger sister i.e. a super high achiever, the sort of kid who gets 100% in tests, loves techie stuff, is very brave when it comes to physical activities and is as good if not better than DD1 at most things despite being 2 years younger. She's also noticeably the taller of the two, a thing that drives DD1 nuts and that people often comment on.
DD1 came to me in tears this morning because she feels she's not being a good older sister. She feels resentful about how good DD2 is at everything and she finds herself sniping at her a lot. She's noticed that DD2 is usually the one to apologise and is starting to feel as if she's not the older sister and that DD2 handles things more maturely. It's not the first time we've had this conversation but it's perhaps the most clear she's ever been about how she feels.
I've said all the stuff I have said to her in the past: how many strengths she has, how well she is doing and how proud I am of her, how comparison is the thief of joy, how normal is it to feel a bit churlish about achievements of younger siblings nipping at one's heels. I also talked a lot about mindset and about how, though it's totally normal to feel a bit threatened by other people particularly siblings, we can be so much happier if we can train ourselves to be pleased for other people. I asked if she could try and see her sister and her sister's skillset as an asset and find ways to get DD2 to help her with stuff, and also ways in which she can feel a bit more like an older sister e.g. helping DD2 with relationship things that she finds hard. And we talked about things that she is better at than DD2 e.g. being self-aware and understanding why she feels the way she does, having conversations like the one we were having.
Anyway, she seems much happier after the chat but I know it's going to come up again and I feel I've run out of things to say. How else can I help DD1 not to feel threatened by her younger sister because I do think, academically, DD2 will totally overtake her but I want her to know that that's not the be all and end all.
Any suggestions gratefully received.
Varnas · 28/06/2020 12:18
I have very similar situation. Two DDs, 11 and 9. Older one is average achiever although hard working, younger one is very bright and everything is extremely easy for her/she helps her bigger sister with English homeworks😜/. Also same hight, same maturity level. I think is because they spend all their free time together, somehow they've adjusted to the same level - in terms of knowledge and maturity. I treat them like tweens not like "big sister" - "younger sister" and so far they are OK with that.
flamingochill · 28/06/2020 12:24
My older 2 have that dynamic.
Dc1 did some sports and other stuff that dc2 wasn't allowed to do. These became his "thing" and gave him confidence that dc2 wouldn't try to outdo him in them.
Varnas · 28/06/2020 12:30
Sorry, couldn't actually give you an advice. With my girls I'm trying to encourage different skills and interests so they don't have to compete. If your older one is good in music or sports, perhaps you could help her with extra tuition so she can have her own achievements.
Samanthasimaginaryfriend · 28/06/2020 16:18
Thanks for taking the time to respond. @varnas it's interesting what you say about them adjusting to be at the same level because they spend so much time together. We've travelled a lot with our DDs and so they have had more time than is normal together even for children close in age so I'm sure that's part of it.
@flamingochill I like that idea. DD1 isn't massively into sport but perhaps there's something else we could encourage her in that only she has access to.
PhantomErik · 30/06/2020 19:41
I have a slightly similar situation, DD is 18 months older than DS & he is starting to overtake her academically & height but I think height is less of an issue with boy/girl.
One thing that has helped is that she plays piano (& is enjoying it & progressing well, grades etc) he's not as musical but enjoys playing the drums. She dances - ballet & again takes grades & in that she really shines (teacher has commented) & he is more sporty.
However, he gets noticed much more at school than her, he gets class awards, merits etc & has overtaken her reading word count (he's 2nd highest in the school but she's 5th so still really good but not quite as good in her eyes).
I try to make time to speak to them 1-2-1 to tell them how proud we are of them & youngest DS (which is another story as he struggles academically & only gets noticed in school when he's naughty!) but there's little to no competition with him as he's 3.5 & 2 yrs younger than them.
Anyway after all that babbling (!) I would see if you could support older DD maybe with extra tuition/support in something younger DD doesn't do.
Blackcurrant66 · 30/06/2020 19:50
That’s a really difficult situation for your dd. I think I’d find an activity that was just for her - could be drama, climbing, anything and make it an area that she doesn’t have to compete in. We all need our own space to develop interests and it sounds like your two have been together a lot.
GemmeFatale · 30/06/2020 20:45
If she’s good at music would something musical but less competitive/grade based work? So local choirs, musical theatre, forming a band with friends online, or similar?
Or she’s just about old enough to think about fostering greater independence. Something like volunteer work in something she’s interested in maybe?
ScottishDiblet · 30/06/2020 21:46
This is the dynamic between me and my older sister. It was very hard for her growing up. But my dad made it harder by being obsessed by my academic achievement and totally uninterested in her. My take away from it now is that my sister had to make her own way a lot more than I did but she is so much more resilient than I am in so many ways and SO much stronger. Those are definitely the qualities I would want for my DD over my academic achievements. My sister did Gold Duke of Edinburgh, worked every summer with disadvantaged children, did camp America. I wish I had done all those things. You are lucky that you are bringing up your DD in a time that a holistic approach to the person is taken. Not just are they achieving academically but are they a kind, good, resilient person. Do they give back to their community? I would remember to focus on these things and try to encourage (both) girls to do lots of things outside school that they enjoy. I hope this helps.
ScottishDiblet · 30/06/2020 21:48
Ps my sister is also my best friend and my absolute rock. I wouldn’t be without her despite us having a hard dynamic when we were younger. Try to focus on that. They will always have each other and I hope they will be good friends because you dealt with them as individuals.
GiraffeMomma · 30/06/2020 21:53
This probably won't help much now, but I was that older sibling, my younger brother was and still is better academically and in his hobbies than I was/am. As we've gotten older though, I've learnt the value of being more emotionally intelligent, and more 'street wise' so to speak. I hated it when I was younger; I was known as his older sister at school which infuriated me, but as we've gotten older I've found that being the clever one isn't always the bonus it is at school!
Samanthasimaginaryfriend · 03/07/2020 14:31
Thank you so much for all your replies. I haven't checked in for a few days because I thought the thread had died, so v happy to read your responses.
The volunteering thing is a really, really good idea. I always used to do a lot of that kind of thing until a few years ago (when I started working for a charity and ended up doing so much above and beyond that I felt there wasn't time/space to give any more but that's another story…) Anyway, I'd recently been looking at local volunteer opportunities but everything seems quite limited at the moment - local support groups overrun with volunteers and other opportunities limited due to Covid. But I'm sure that will ease up - any tips on volunteering opportunities for pre-teens/early teens much appreciated. A lot seems to be 14+
DD1 has actually been so much happier since having the conversation with me. It think partly she just needed to get it off her chest and know that it was ok to be feeling that way. Now DD2 is a bit out of sorts because she doesn't quite know what do do with the shift in dynamic and her sister suddenly making a huge effort to cooperate with her!
@GiraffeMomma what you say about emotional intelligence is so true. DD1 really does engage well with people, which is a huge asset in real post-school life (and one that will become increasingly important as the role of artificial intelligence grows!)
@ScottishDiblet I'm so glad you're so close to your sister now. I really hope the same will be true for mine - DD1 has definitely started to grasp this idea that the two of them could be great allies for life if they can put the competition to one side
JennyWren · 03/07/2020 15:25
If your DD1 becomes a Guide, she can also volunteer as a Rainbow Helper or Brownie Helper.
Are they at different primary/secondary schools, or school, or at the same, through school? DD1 finding a place where she is known only as an individual, where no-one knows her sister, might help her to see her strengths in isolation rather than in comparison with her sister.
Samanthasimaginaryfriend · 04/07/2020 15:50
Thanks @jennywren - that's v helpful. DD1 is currently in year 7 at secondary, DD2 in year 5 at primary. There's a good chance DD2 won't go to the same secondary
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