“She sleeps over at a friend’s house every weekend so she doesn’t have to be home with her brother.”
“I had to install locks on their bedroom doors so they could protect their own stuff.”
“I heard him crying after his sister said hateful things to him.”
“She was going through a really hard time at school, but didn’t tell me, because she didn’t want to give me more to deal with.”
“He’s lost his sparkle and hardly talks to the rest of the family.”
When one of our kids has a mental illness, a large portion of heartache is reserved for the way the struggle affects our other kids. Depending on their personalities, they might act out or withdraw, become the “good kid” or rebel.
Mental illness in one family member affects the whole. Our other kids are dealing with so many mixed emotions. They love their sibling who is ill, but also resent the attention and chaos the illness brings. They want to support their obviously distressed parents, but also want to hide from the situation. Their own real needs for love and care may be neglected or put on hold during a crisis, and they understand, but…
And even though caring for the ill child seems all-consuming, we parents agonize over the effects on the others. We miss the cuddle time, the one-on-one outings, the cheerful family dinners that aren’t happening to make their lives full of parental love. We wonder how being raised in less-than-ideal circumstances will affect them in the long-term.
What can we do?
1) Consider seeking counseling for your other kids, so they can process, vent, and learn how to be healthy themselves.
2) Try to spend one-on-one time with each of them when you can, even if it’s only a walk. When our younger son was in the worst crisis years, our older son Alex was finishing high school and starting college, commuting from home. It took him a long time to get his driver’s license. While it would have been a lot more convenient for him to be able to drive himself to and from campus the first year, I now think of it differently. Maybe God knew he needed 20 minutes of uninterrupted time with a parent twice a day, just to chat and for us to listen.
3) Pray. Ask them what you can pray for them. Tell them you are praying for them. And pour out your heart to God on behalf of all your kids.
4) Remember that God redeems loss. Alex lost some of the personal attention I would have loved to give him. But God gave him unexpected blessings in return: the “gift” of a mom who needed support. He learned an empathy which didn’t necessarily come naturally to him. God can do something like that in your kids’ lives too.
5) Trust that God loves your kids and can work all things together for their good as they choose to love Him and He calls them to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) The same God who sustains, strengthen, teaches, and molds you is for them too.
Can I pray for you or your family in any way? Please leave a comment or reach me through the contact page on kirstep.com.