Caring for a child that lives with a mood disorder diagnosis can change the family dynamic. Often, parents and caregivers must provide more attention to the child in need. This can create tension in the family. If you’re providing care, it’s important to acknowledge the strain you’re going through, and realize that itis okay to feel frustrated, burned out, guilty, or angry.

There are many ways to approach family tensions. Considering the needs of siblings and partners will help in gaining balance.

Siblings

Children with mood disorders may need more attention than their siblings. This can be a difficult adjustment. Siblings may be used to spending more time with their parents, and the change in household dynamics could be upsetting. Depending on the age of the sibling, it is important to have intentional and educational conversations with them so they can express their feelings and gain more information about what their sibling is going through.

Siblings may react in many ways to a change in household dynamics. Commonly, they are also concerned about their sibling and may feel upset that their relationship has changed with their brother or sister. They may be concerned about their sibling’s behavior and try to protect the feelings of other family members.

Children may also act out or mimic the behavior of the child who lives with a mood disorder diagnosis. This behavior may be attention seeking, but it is important to remember their family dynamics have changed and they may be looking for support. Siblings may hide their feelings, so it can be helpful to check in with them privately.

Support for siblings can be useful. If a sibling is having a hard time with changes, talk therapy can be a good option. Having an outlet in individual therapy can allow them private time to reflect. They also may gain skills in the process that will benefit them and their relationship to their sibling. Family therapy may also be beneficial, depending on your circumstances.

Spouses and partners

Caring for a child who lives with a mood disorder can strain relationships between spouses and partners. Whether you are married, living together as co-parents, or sharing care following a divorce, the needs of the child can take their toll. For example, decision-making around a child’s mental health can create differences of opinion or tension. The amount of time and energy needed for caregiving can also detract from the relationship. Partners can benefit from taking time to communicate clearly, discuss needs, and engage in solution thinking. This involves focusing on what you would like to have happen instead of focusing on what is wrong.

Prioritizing relationship needs can be difficult, so setting aside dedicated time to check in can be helpful. Partners may benefit from couples therapy to support the relationship. Partners who can find balance can support one another and better share responsibilities.