In this counselling answer:
“Oftentimes, younger siblings experience feelings of low self-esteem, jealousy, as well as feelings of inadequacy, especially if the older sibling is getting a lot of attention for successes or accomplishments.”
Thank you for writing to us with your concerns about your sister. You must love your sister very much as you are very concerned about what she is going through. May Allah (swt) reward you for your concern and beautiful heart.
As you are 18 and she is younger than you, it could be that she is going through some normal adolescence transitions which can result in mood and behaviour changes. While I do not know her exact age, what you may be seeing is a normal part of her adjusting to her hormones, emotions, changing body as well as trying to find her place/identity in this world.
According to the CDI, ‘”Adolescence is a period of considerable stress. While much of the stress can be minimized through support, persistence, and active decision-making and planning, there still will be times when young people find themselves in difficult situations. Coping with stress is associated with various competencies such as organizational adaptability, human relations, problem-solving, and self-confidence. Particular strategies for stress management include relaxation techniques, managing ‘self-talk,’ focusing, and using support systems”.
Based on your brief description of what is going on with your sister, it may be that she is unable to cope with changes (if any) in the home or within herself as a young growing girl. I know that my own daughter who is 17 does not adapt well to change. She likes things to be consistent and predictable. When her older sister (who she was very close to) moved out of the home for college, my daughter went through stress, depression and became sensitive to a lot of things that before would not have bothered her.
Other causes of increased sensitivity may be that, in fact, she is depressed or has experienced a trauma either at school, in a social setting, or at home. Oftentimes, children are bullied at school and suffer in silence.
Lastly, as you mentioned, she may not like the fact that your parents or cousins display love towards you. If this is truly the reason, perhaps she feels left out, jealous, or unwanted. Oftentimes, younger siblings experience feelings of low self-esteem, jealousy, as well as feelings of inadequacy, especially if the older sibling is getting a lot of attention for successes or accomplishments.
Sister, are you close to her? When did you notice her behaviour and mood changes? Has she wiredrawn from you specifically or everyone in general? Do you know of any traumatic events that she could have gone through? These questions and others are important for determining how best you can help her as a family.
I would kindly suggest that you, as her sister, try to spend more time with her. Take her out for lunch or another special outing. While you do want to keep it light and fun, at some point ask her about school, if she enjoys her classes and if everything is okay. You may want to mention that you love her and that you have noticed her mood has changed lately. Ask her if there is anything you can do to help. By spending quality time with your sister, you will, in sha’ Allah, help her feel and know that she is important to you and the family.
As you may begin to gain her trust, she will open up to you and talk to you about what is bothering her. Should she do this, I kindly suggest that you refrain from judging or denying her feelings but validate them as they are her feelings and they are real to her. Be supportive by asking her how she would like to see things change for the better. Ask what you and the rest of the family can do to make things better for her. While it may take some time to get her to open up, in sha’ Allah, she will feel your love and genuine concern and begin to confide in you her feelings and thoughts.
I am not clear on the construct of relationships within your family, sister. If your parents and cousins give you a lot of attention and do not really pay attention to her, she could be feeling sad or left out. Perhaps there was a time when the attention you both received was equal. Often, as one who is older reaches milestones first (such as graduating high school), the dynamics between sisters change. This change can leave the younger one feeling lost and not sure of her position within the relationship.
I would kindly suggest that you and your family look at any of these types of changes that could have led her to feel the way she does. If they do exist, you may want to show enthusiasm for her upcoming accomplishments and goals, reminding her that you (as a family) as proud of her as well.
I would also encourage you to pray with her, study Qur’an with her as well as take her to the Masjid and Islamic events in order to increase her faith and relationship with Allah (swt). This will also increase her opportunities to meet nice Muslim girls for friendship and socialization. This will in sha’ Allah increase her support systems.
Sister, I am sure that with loving interventions, more sensitivity towards her needs and feelings, and a little extra attention she will be fine. It may be a phase she is going through either due to adolescent changes or changes in the relationship between you and her as you are now entering adulthood. She may possibly feel you are ‘growing away” from her and bonding with others. Please, ensure that she has not experienced any harm or trauma.
Also, if she displays other symptoms such as withdrawing from her friends, social activities, has a loss of interest in things she once enjoyed, if she isolates, cries easily, please take her to a counsel for an evaluation. She may be suffering from depression and she will need professional help if that is the case.
Please, let us know how you and your sister are doing.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.