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The Family Project: Sisters, 13, and 9, growing up, not apart

Q. Any tips for helping a 13-year-old girl and her nine-year-old sister develop their relationship as they grow apart? I can see it happening now.

The question didn’t provide details about what changes there are in the daughters’ relationship, so it was discussed in general terms.

“It’s not that the 13-year-old is growing apart from her sister,” panelist Chad Stefanyak said, “it’s that she is going through a natural growth cycle.

“She may be finding her younger sister annoying because the adolescent is meeting older people and interacting with them,” said Stefanyak.

“It is understandable that the adolescent is going to be frustrated,” panelist Mike Daniels said, “but never should she show it to her sister.

“The 13-year old’s job is to find herself, and the nine-year-old wants to follow along,” said Daniels.

“It’s important for the mother to pay attention to the changes the teenager is going through,” panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said, adding that “the mother may need to adjust her expectations.” Mercado-Arroyo recommended that each child have her own set of friends.

Stefanyak asked if the teenager would be willing to be more in a teaching role with the nine-year-old: “Could the mother arrange that?”

“The mother is having difficulty with the changes,” Daniels said, adding, “She is losing control, which is always scary for adults. And she may also be sensing a change of her own relationship with the older daughter.”

“Don’t insist on things staying the same,” panelist Joanne Raftas said.

“The only thing we can guarantee is change. When the girls get older, they will come together and find common ground,” said Raftas.

The word used most often by the panel throughout the discussion of the question was “respect.” It was mentioned often that the parents need to make sure that their daughters are taught to be respectful of each other, and of their parents.

This week’s panel: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist; Joanne Raftas, Northampton Community College, independent counselor, and Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org

The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health-care provider, with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.