NZ Woman's Weekly

When children are embarrassed of their siblings

Dear Diane,
My daughter (4), has a large birthmark on her face and the skin surgeons have said that we should wait a few years before operating to remove or reduce it. This is quite okay with my husband and me as we don’t really want her having surgery so young. In our eyes she’s beautiful and I really don’t even notice her birthmark. We’ve taught her to be proud of herself and she’s able to take comments from other children in her stride. However, her stepbrother (my husband’s son) is 13 and he won’t be seen in public with her. We’ve talked to him about it and I even rang his mother, who promised to try to help, but she got no further than we had. He says her birthmark embarrasses him and refuses to discuss it further. We used to get on really well but now I dislike him for being so cruel.

Stepmum, by email

Dear Stepmum,
You have adjusted to your daughter having a birthmark and have done a splendid job of parenting so that she is proud of herself and able to take comments in her stride. I understand that it is very painful that your stepson hasn’t got the loving adult maturity and loyalty that you and his father have. There will be several reasons for this. He is not an adult and cannot rationalise or contain his feelings the way an adult can. He is embarrassed by his stepsister’s appearance. While this may appear to be cruel and selfish, the reality is that he is just reaching the age and stage where he is aware of his and others’ appearance in a way that typically goes with early adolescence.

Bearing in mind that his sister hasn’t always been in his life and that he comes and goes in hers, it is possible that he doesn’t have the strong loyalty of a birth sibling and so is more concerned about his feelings rather than yours. He may well be receiving unkind comments from peers about his stepsister and have no resources to cope with them. Why not find a trusted (by him) family friend and give him a chance to speak about what it is like for him to have a stepsister whose appearance embarrasses him.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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