Once, when I was about six years old, my family went to stay with my great-grandmother. I don’t know if that was my first time meeting her, but I do know that it was my last time. While we were there, my older brother constantly pointed out my faults, real ones and made up ones. I tried to defend myself verbally and loudly. This was not a good mix for an elderly woman.
My great-grandmother didn’t know how to handle the sibling rivalry, so she sided with my brother. I was told that I would not be permitted to take meals at the table with the others. My mom put up a fight about that, so I was finally permitted, but only on the condition that I would not speak one word. Later, she took my brother to the grocery store and let him pick out chocolates for himself.
At one point, my mom decided that enough was enough. She cut our stay short, but still, the damage had been done. Later on in my life, my great-grandmother asked me to visit her. I felt too vulnerable to accept the offer and, instead, kindly declined as a visit was not something I felt safe enough to do. I kept contact by sending a few birthday cards over the years.
Healthy relationships in a family are a vital part of your child’s life. If your child is being mistreated by a member of the family, then it is up to you to bring a stop to it. It’s our job as parents to protect our children when relationships develop that are not healthy. You might think it’s your job to protect the abuser, because the abuser is also a family member, but you are not helping the abuser by allowing his or her behavior to continue. I once heard Dr. Dobson, from Focus on the Family, say that if the parents can’t stop a sibling from mistreating the other sibling, they are obligated then to seek outside help and intervention.
I’m glad to say that my family loves each other and my brother and I are friends. Hopefully, if you are estranged from a relative, reconciliation can take place. It’s better than separation, but sometimes, separation is necessary. I would like to leave you with these wise words by Reinhold Niebuhr:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”