A family member with a mental illness can be hard on a family. It can cause a range of emotions for other family members. I feel this can be especially hard on children/adolscents who have a sibling with a mental illness. The child with the mental illness typically has a lot of appointments the parents have to take them to- doctors appointments, therapy appointments, school meetings, etc. This takes up a lot of time for the parents. Also, the parents tend to be under a lot of stress as they want their kids to be healthy and happy and seeing their kids struggle with mental illness goes against this.
I was talking to a client the other day about this. With so much attention on the child with mental illness, what are we doing for the other child? I have been guilty of this myself. A parent of a child that has any sort of illness needs to devote time and attention to that kid but we need to make sure that we're still giving other children their are much-needed attention. Sometimes this means we have to pull in friends and family to help us. And that's okay-we all need help sometimes. It's also could mean letting the other child go to a therapist to be able to explore their feelings about everything. It can be scary and confusing. They may not understand why their sibling acts the way they do at times.
Sometimes I've seen siblings that seem like they have it all together and never step out of line. This can be because the child has good support and is well adjusted but we need to make sure it's not because they feel unspoken pressure to not cause any problems. They still need to be having fun and be a kid.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.