I was asked what advice I can give a big brother to help guard his little sisters heart. This is what I had. When I wrote it I imagined that I was speaking to myself. This is how I want you to be treated, what I want you to have from your dad, or a big brother.
Things to do:
- Do give her truth. Don't candy-coat it. Don't exaggerate it. Do give her the blunt truth. Establish yourself as credible. No "easter-bunny", "tooth-fairy" or "santa claus". When she needs someone to trust then she never goes to those folks. I know I watched. You either have credibility for being a high-quality source of truth or you don't. I'm not saying to crush her sense of wonder - but tell her "I will always tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and if you really want to know the answer then I will tell you." This gives her seasons of wonder but also she knows you always always always tell the truth to her.
- Do give to her a facility at understanding. Equip her with tools of understanding so she can make good decisions. Get her into games that train her to figure out what her options are. Geocaching. D&D. I love chess, but you have to have a very (very) particular bent there and most girls dont. Read books like "how life imitates chess" by Kasparov, or "outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, or "the goal" by Goldratt. No seriously - in reverse order, read those books. "rock, paper, scissors" by Len Fisher is also good, but should be read around the time of Kasparov. Find a way to have her read to you while you drive, or you read to her while she drives but read the material in them. Find the stories she reads, then read them, and think through the good and bad, and challenge her with decision or options where people either did a great job of making the most of opportunity, or really missed out on something obvious. Teach her to think so that if she needs to she can. She is younger than you, and she is a girl. If you can't teach her something new in how to think, then you can at least teach her how guys think.
- Do talk to her, regularly and often. Give her a good level of detail about what guys do what and how to girls. From tricks they play to get them in the sack, to how they fake how they are handling being dumped. If she speaks the langauge of "guy" then she isn't going to be as easily duped, used, or exploited. She can get past the BS and at least find what she is looking for - even if its not what you are looking for her to look for.
- Do take her to your local police department sponsored violence avoidance class. It can give her very good material in life. How to not be a victim - they know what it takes. Make sure every 2-3 years she gets a refresh.
- Do follow up by getting her into a habit of healty activity. Be a jogging buddy, or work together (there are plenty of books and organizations that help) to run a marathon. She will be amazed how she feels (and looks) after being able to run a marathon. At the beginning she might not be able to walk a quarter mile, but without too much pain, and with some commitment on your part, after around 3 months she can be in the top 1% of physical fitness on the planet. Its good for her emotional well being, her physical health, and her life-span. Swimming. Bike riding. Rock-climbing. Something.
-This is hard, it isn't fun, but its part of truth ... Do have a female cop or a female nurse talk her through every step of getting a rape kit. Rapists are serial - they never have only one victim. Rape escalates, the next one is worse than the last. A properly done kit will put them in prison. It happens to 1 in 4 women before they are 18 nowadays, rape does. If she is ignorant then her very real, very human, very natural responses are going to make her throw all the evidence in the garbage - make sure he gets away with it. If she knows what to do then he will go to jail. If every girl properly did a rape kit when something like this happened then all the rapists would be in prison. The rate of rapes would go down 75%.
- Do give her quality time. Find things she hungers to do, from driving the car, to running her own business or whatever. This isn't like going to the movies once a week and not saying anything wihle you stare at a screen. Do make it hands on, interactive. Garden. Rebuild a car engine. Learn to fly ultralights. Go to the gun-range, bow range, paintball place and teach her how to shoot/play/compete. Put at least 10 hours per week into her - into doing worthwhile things with her. This will establish and maintain the relationship. When she needs someone to talk to then she will come to you. You will learn each other, know each other, and grow to trust each other. This is a habit that will pay for itself in worth 1000x over the length of your lifetimes - invest in each other well.
- Do empower her - that means provide a clear vision of who she can be that is accessible and noble. Learn good role models, visions of who she could be, and if she can be open to them then share them. If she is really young then buy her good comic books - ones that have a values worth having in life, and characters worth aspiring to.
This is big - you MUST learn to listen. If you are thinking of an answer - you aren't listening. Listen as if what she was saying mattered as much to you as it does to her. Listen, remember. Ask good questions. You can tell her slow down, or wait a minute. You can say - give me a bit to think about that. As guys we have a narrow pipe for communication and are easily overwhelmed there while girls have amazing communication bandwidth. If she loves you she will give you some room - just keep engaging her. THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST AND MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR HER.
Do not do these:
- You can not force her to wait until the guys brains have (to some extent) migrated from the penis to the head - do not try. Children in our instant-gratification/consumerist culture have no capacity for patience. She is your younger sis, therefore a child, therefore incapable of demonstrating that level of self control.
- Do not intimidate any/all potential boyfriends. This will make her go behind your back. When that super-sleaze finally gets her alone, you are not going to be able to warn her and she will get raped, and then not tell you about it.
- Do not believe for an instant that she is innocent. Her relationship to you doesn't trump her human nature. She wants a number of things. She will lie. She will be manipulative. She will use a guy just like a guy will use a girl. If you can't be real with yourself about who she is, and what her motives can be then you can't give her truth that will help her.
- DO NOT introduce her to bad things. You start her drinking she will go the next step. Younger sibs do that. You do not want to look in the mirror after she did something amazingly bad and want to kill yourself for having introduce her to it. Be excellent. Teach her excellence. Keep her away from things that kill the soul and degrade the person.
In life there are no "silver bullets", no miracle cures for everything. There are some things that work sometimes and others that don't. There is no single thing that a father/brother/friend can do for her that will help (see the event based solution vs. process based solution) but his doing these things is kind-of a silver bullet. These will not guarantee that she doesn't get hurt, but will go a long way to protecting her, and if she does get hurt these will go a long way to helping her heal.
Mathbaby - I want this for you. I hope to be around to be it, but life doesn't guarantee that I will be. If I can't be there, then I want you (and anyone else around you) to know what I want for you.
I just read (most of) "rock, paper, scissors" and it seems very sad how terribly poor human beings are at working together. If we could team up in groups of .. more than 35% of mating pairs .. and work as coalitions for just a few years, then much more truly successful living could be accomplished. General human quality of life on the planet could be improved by 300% if only we could work together well, committedly, and sincerely in teams like this. They say it takes a village to raise a child - but it seems we no longer have any villages. Maybe we never had villages. That is sad thought. I hope you have a village. I hope you are a village too.