Growing up, Sarah had grown close to her cousin Becky during family reunions, weekend dinners and summer vacations. She was the same age as Sarah, which meant that they felt like two peas in a pod when it came to understanding the world around them. So when Becky announced the birth of her baby brother Brian, Sarah was one of the first to offer up congratulations.
But things started to change when Sarah met Brian for the first time. Instead of being filled with joy and pride at the sight of him, she felt like she had been replaced—that having a little brother had made her life obsolete. She had thought that Becky and her would be able to do all the things they had done together as kids again, but now she felt like there was no room for her.
Sarah’s feelings of exclusion only grew whenever she visited her cousin’s house. She felt like the third wheel, never included in any conversations, always left out of the loop. While Becky took her little brother on walks around the neighborhood, telling stories about their adventures Sarah stayed far away - too far for Brian even to notice her existence.
At home, Sarah withdrew from her family and friends. She refused to talk about Brian or his visits to the house. When her parents asked her why she wasn't interested in seeing her newly born cousin, she replied that he simply did not exist to her. Even when pictures of Brian were shown, Sarah refused to acknowledge them as anything more than random snapshots of an insignificant person.
The fact of the matter is, Sarah was scared. She was scared that she had lost her spot in the family and the bond she had with her cousin. She was scared of being forgotten or overshadowed by the looming presence of Brian, of not having anyone to turn to when she was feeling down - someone who really understood her. Deep down all she wanted was to have the same connection with Brian that she had with Becky, but given that she hadn't spoken to him or interacted with him, she felt like this was impossible.
The refusal to acknowledge another family member's existence may be a sign of teen insecurity, of perceived abandonment and a need for reassurance that their place in the family still matters. In this case, the best way to help Sarah come to terms with the new family dynamic is to simply assure her that she's still loved and important and remind her that any new additions to the family should not take away from her relationship with her cousin. Additionally, providing her with opportunities to engage with Brian in activities that she enjoys could help.
It's important to recognize and be sensitive to how changes in family dynamics can affect teens. By showing compassion and understanding, it is possible to ensure that no one is forgotten or left behind.