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My sister has had a lot on her plate recently and is a good person but can be lazy or a bit ignorant sometimes.

Our mother is ill. Nothing deeply serious. But still ill. I informed my sister of this a few days ago and my mother mentioned to me today that she hasn’t heard anything from my sister since she took ill. I think she was just hoping for a text, nothing special. It broke my heart a bit as my mother has been bending over backwards for my sister recently, worrying about her, giving her gifts, helping her fix so many problems. She’s been outstanding.

I want to speak to my sister about this. I think my sister is just caught up in her own life but is being unintentionally really hurtful.

My concerns are

  1. That it looks like I’m trying to get one up on my sibling. We do have a good relationship but given all my siblings problems (none of which I have) I don’t want it to appear like I’m playing a ‘favourite child’ card.
  2. That my sibling will contact our mother and say ‘OP told me to contact you’ which perhaps betrays my mother’s trust.

I want my sibling to text our mother. In order to do that I need to point out to her that she’s hurt our mother without causing an argument, appearing unfeeling or making the problem worse. How do I talk to my sibling about this?

  • Can you please edit the question to reflect what you are trying to achieve? – BFG95 Jul 25 at 23:05
  • Will do! Thanks. – Omani Jul 25 at 23:16
  • Do you (you, sibling and mother) regularly see each other or is a lot of communication over phone/text/... – AsheraH Jul 26 at 5:09
  • 1
    Hey Omani! Could you add details regarding your relationship with your sibling? Would you say that you have a good relationship? – Ælis Jul 26 at 8:49
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I've been in that situation, on both sides. Me and my siblings are not good at keeping in touch with our mother and grand-parents.

What I've found is that the best way to remind a sibling that they are being a bit inconsiderate or forgetful, without going into an argument or them becoming defensive, is to gently remind them. Once. And then let it go.

To be able to say what I have to say with kind tone and words, I always try to have the "best case scenario" in mind. When people fail something, we tend to think the worst of them (when we give ourselves some slack in the same situation). For example, if I'm late, it's because there was traffic; if someone else is late, it's because they can't manage their time. I know my brothers, I know they love my mother and don't wish to cause her pain or feeling abandoned. I also know they can be caught up in their lives and kinda take our mother for granted.

I prefer to think they're just being forgetful or haven't thought things through. Before talking to them, I spend a minute or two thinking about the reasons why they haven't done X or Y (after all, I also don't do some things I should, and it's not because I like to hurt people). This allows me to be kind and warm to them when we talk about this subject, which means we can have a discussion instead of an argument. Also, when you tell people you know they didn't mean to do X and Y (because they're good people), people tend to want to meet your expectations.

So in your case, next time I saw her (or call her), I would say something like :

Hey sis ! I went to mom a couple of days ago, she's still sick. She also asked me about you, if you were doing ok, since she hasn't heard from you in a while. I know you've been busy lately, but I think she's a bit sad about not hearing from you. I think it it would make her very happy if you called her or send her a message.

Since you say she's not unloving, just lazy, this should be enough. No need to guilt trip her too much, she'll probably feel bad enough knowing she has caused her mother to feel left aside. And if you lay in the guilt, like talking about how much your mother has done for her, it would probably result in her becoming defensive and you two having an argument.

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Be direct where you can, do nothing where you can't

Answers on IPS require either cited authorities or personal experience. I'll answer mostly from experience.

Sometimes, by the time relationships get out of control to the point where they need a letter, the letter won't do much good anyway. Sometimes it can help—and we must do all we can do to help—, but even then, if a letter is in order, you must accept that you won't get all the victories of friendship that you'd hoped for.

Look up incorrigible and Some People Can't Love.

But, no one is hopeless who is still breathing.

1. Respond Rightly: Don't try to change your sister! Don't try to convince her of anything! Just have the right reaction of decency as an encouraging and inspiring demonstration for both her and your mother.

Another factor is The Savior Complex, where we try to "help others" when maybe we shouldn't. Sometimes, "helping others" is a kind of mental illness, but I don't have the licences to diagnose that.

Maybe you and your mother both have been trying to help your sister too much. Maybe you need to take some respite from that and focus on communicating to your mother that she—your mother—can love your sister more by not trying so hard. Love knows when to let go.

2. Just Love Both: Focus your energies on loving both your mother and your sister, just as they are. It might be your turn to be the adult in the family.

With those two in mind, you might be ready to write your sister a letter. Why not write a letter to your mother while you're at it?

I've had to write letters to family members now and again. I know a teenager from a divorced family who wrote to his (difficult, possibly certifiable, often dramatic-neurotic) mother,

"Mom, I just want a good relationships with you. That's what I want. I don't want to argue or be right, I just want a relationship."

That changed everything. She was still difficult much of the time, but they were able to do things together and get home in one piece, which they couldn't do before.

The teen added a few more words, but they were all original. No one gave the teen inspiration for it, the message was as original as it was from the heart.

3. Write for Relationship: Speak the truth, call out some things that need to change, but mainly write a letter asking for a workable relationship.

You can speak the truth on some things, but make "relationship" your letter's priority.

Maybe your sister's life really is busy and difficult. Maybe she is just occupied working, paying bills (job hours), or zoning out trying to process the flood of stupidity in the world. Maybe you can give your sister your mother's permission to go away for a while and deal with her stuff. Whitney Houston sang, "If I should stay, I would only be in your way..." I Will Always Love You. Don't go away forever, just a little while. It's not "being together" that must be forever, it's "love", which isn't hurt by the need to lend time and space.

Try this:

You haven't helped mom around the house much, yet she has scaled mountains for you. No one expects a thanks, but please just silently notice her love for you. And, know that I love you and so does mom. We'd love it if you'd drop in once in a while. If you can't, that really is okay also. We just miss you and want you to know.

You should be able to write something like that without violating your mother's trust. If you can't, then there are deeper issues of honesty within family—to tear down the stonewalling—that you and your mother can discuss while you care for her. But, maybe that's not a problem, hopefully not.

Sometimes, it's the heart that makes the body sick anyway. Whatever is going on, help everyone change themselves—no trying to change the others. Do that by not trying to change others, only improve yourself. Pull out your A-game with this. Don't whine to yourself that you get no help. Shine love. Share your "my-role, love-others" thoughts with your mother and thus inspire her swift recovery, along with the whole family's.

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