I’m 30 years old and the oldest among my siblings. My concern is my brother, who is 15 and the only child who lives at home. When I went home recently, I was shocked to notice how disrespectful he was towards our parents. My parents seem to lack the energy to stand up to him and I’d like to help, but I don’t know how.

First, I’d like to say that it’s really heart-warming that you care so much about your family and want to offer your support, and it certainly sounds like it’s going to be needed.

Of course, your brother is a teenager and if you’ve been away for a while, the pace of change in a young person of this age can take you aback. 
I think one of the defining factors in this situation is the fact that your brother – unlike the rest of you who have grown up, have your own lives and are probably enjoying new adventures – feels left behind and perhaps a little jealous and angry about being at home. His behaviour may be in response to the sense of loss he feels.

I can’t tell whether you are close to your brother, but I do feel that now would be a great opportunity to try to build or rebuild the bond that siblings generally share. A boy of his age, on the cusp of adulthood, would benefit hugely from having another positive male role model in his life who is closer in age, but also experienced enough to act as a guide through this transformational time.

I suggest that first you meet with your parents without him being there and discuss the situation. Avoid being judgemental, that never helps, but perhaps raise the idea of offering more support to your brother. This is something you must think very carefully about, because your intervention needs to be consistent or it could cause more harm than good.

Your parents, if they are struggling to deal with your brother’s behaviour, might welcome the chance to talk about it and tap into family support. Sometimes it’s tough for parents to admit they are finding things hard. I wonder, considering your age, if they are a little older and maybe feel out of touch with what is going on in their son’s life with regards to peers and social media, so you could help them bridge that gap.

When you have spoken to your parents, turn your attention to your brother and try to engineer a way you can spend some quality time with him, away from normal teenage distractions and without it being too obvious. Initially, you could just try to get to know him again. Listen to him, reach out and let him know you are there for him. You are not so very far in age that you can’t think back and remember what a difficult time the teenage years can be, so draw on that experience and try to find out more about how your brother is feeling and what’s going on in his life.

Don’t forget, there could be things going on that neither your parents or you are aware of, such as bullying, so it’s wise to tread carefully. Teenagers often don’t look like they care, but I guarantee, deep down he will and if he knows you care, he will come to value this.

When you have gained his trust and confidence, then you can start to discuss the more challenging aspects of his behaviour and start to guide him to a better path.

It’s not acceptable for young people to be disrespectful and rude, but it is behaviour that is, more often than not, masking other feelings such as insecurity and anxiety about the future. With your and your parents’ support and love, I’m sure he will come through and develop into a happy, kind and successful young man.