Caring for a child with a mood disorder can have a significant impact on the family and loved ones. It is important to recognize this and take the time to work through family relationship issues. It is okay to feel burned out, guilty or angry when dealing with difficult circumstances. What is important is to be mindful of how one child’s mood can impact the whole family.
The caring process can strain relationships between partners or parents and their other children. If you have other children, it is important to identify who can care for them during a crisis. Strain to siblings can occur when
- parents need to spend more time focused on and with the child who experiences a mental health condition,
- children face the stigma of mental health, and
- family plans are disrupted by the child who is experiencing a mental health condition.
Tips for nurturing a sibling include
- don’t allow siblings to take responsibility for the child who is experiencing a mood disorder or for the parents;
- let siblings know it is ok to feel angry, jealous, or sad;
- watch for signs that siblings are in distress but be aware that their problems may be hidden;
- be available to talk with siblings and to answer questions honestly and in developmentally-appropriate ways;
- encourage therapy as a way to gain coping skills and express feelings;
- set aside one-on-one time with siblings to share an activity they enjoy; and
- seek other supports, including sibling support groups.
Partnerships and marriages can also suffer when so much energy is devoted to a child, some ways you can be mindful of your partnership while caring for your child include
- make a conscious decision and effort to nurture your partnership; support each other and express appreciation and respect;
- consider marriage counseling as part of the process of nurturing your relationship;
- engage in “solution thinking;” instead of focusing on what’s wrong, work toward what you want to have happen;
- seek balance in your life, so that your child’s issues don’t dominate all the time; and
- take turns; if one parent or partner is burned out, the other can step in to offer a break.