This week, we offer advice on what to do if you hove an argument with your stepsister with whom you are sharing a room 

Hi Friend

I live with my stepsister, who is two years older than me, and I hate her. We share a bunk bed, and she sleeps on the upper bed. 

I am annoyed that she always stays up late with her lights on to talk on the phone with her boyfriend. I hate listening to their conversations, but whenever I ask her to hang up, she argues with me and says mean things about me over the phone.
I want to complain to my mum and tell her it is her fault I have a stepfather and stepsister, but it may hurt her feelings. What should I do? 

Feeling Stepped On 


Dear Feeling Stepped On

It sounds like there are two issues that you are dealing with. At the surface of this is your frustration with your stepsister who isn't respecting you and your need to sleep. But it also seems like you feel strongly about your mother's marriage in general. Let's break down both of these situations one by one. 

With more families experiencing divorce and remarriage, stepfamilies - and the complex relationships that come with them - are increasingly common. Adjusting to new family members in your home is not easy, and relationships in a blended family can be quite unique. 

Negative emotions, conflict and even jealousy are normal, but the potential for conflict resolution and supportive relationships is also something you can work towards. While the tension you feel with your stepsister is understandable, we have some tips for how you can approach this situation. 

Before you confront her, make sure you are calm to avoid saying anything that could intensify instead of solve your existing problems. Whether you need to go for a walk, do deep-breathingexercises or listen to music, find a way to clear your mind of as much anger as you can. 

Rather than telling your stepsister to hang up while she is chatting with her boyfriend, find a good time to talk to her when she would be more open to discuss this. 

Rehearse what you plan to say, and don't be afraid to be assertive. Use "I" statements by explaining how her actions have made you feel. For example, you could say, "We share this room, and I need to get enough sleep to do well in school. I felt hurt by how you responded to me, and it hasn't helped solve the problem." 

After you share your feelings, you will need to listen to her point of view, so you two can reach a compromise about how both your needs can be fulfilled. For example, you can set a time when she needs to turn off the lights and her phone, or leave the room to chat with her boyfriend. Or if there are certain nights when you plan to sleep later, you two can plan it so she can talk longer on the phone. 

If your sister is completely uncooperative and continues being hostile, you may need to talk to your mother to explain what is going on and how it makes you feel. Tell her about how you have already tried on your own to mend the situation. Hopefully your mother and stepfather will be able to step in and help resolve the situation. 

This brings us to the other issue you briefly mentioned - how you blame your mum for bringing your stepfather and stepsister into your life. You didn't give more details, but this is an important feeling you need to deal with. 

If your stepfather and stepsister are hurting you or your mother in any way, then you need to speak with a trusted adult or a professional about what you can do to make your living situation a safe one. If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to someone in your life, here are a few resources you can use: 

  • Hotline for emotional support for youth: 2777 8899 (Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups)
  • "Open Up" WhatsApp/SMS: 9101 2012 (Supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust)

But if that's not the case, then reflect on where this feeling comes from, and share how you feel about your livinig situation with your mum. If she doesn't know how you feel, it isn't good for you to hold onto this resentment. Perhaps you think she did not consider how you felt when she remarried, or that she does not spend as much time with you now that your family has grown. 

Communication and mutual respect are important for any family to function in a healthy manner. 

It will likely take time and more conversations before you feel entirely comfortable in your new family situation, but we hope everyone in your family is willing to put in the work to make things better. 

Best of luck, Friend of a Friend

The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under their "Shall We Talk" initiative, jointly organised with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health. 
Source: Young Post