|National Alliance on Mental Illness
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What Parents Can/Can’t Do For Siblings
By Rex Dickens, NAMI Sibling and Adult Children (SAC) Resources
What Parents Can’t Do:
- Can’t take away the fact that mental illness impacts other siblings.
- Can’t lessen the impact by not talking about it.
- Can’t shield the siblings from their own feelings about it.
- Can’t determine the coping style individual siblings may adopt.
- Can’t do the grieving (mourning) process for them. This involves denial, sadness, anger and finally acceptance. This process everyone must do in their individual way, and at their own pace.
- Can’t make them seek help if they need the denial stage.
- Can’t take away peer and societal stigma.
- Can’t expect they will not have a variety of negative emotions such as guilt, fears, grief, resentment and jealousy.
What Parents Can Do:
- Be aware that all family members are profoundly affected.
- Be aware of the coping stance the sibling will adopt, i.e. estrangement, enmeshment, etc.
- Talk about your feelings and encourage them to do the same.
- Learn about the illness to lower family anxiety.
- Do not make the ill member the axis on which the family revolves. This is as detrimental to the ill person as it is to the other family members.
- Seek to improve the mental health system so that after-care options are available.
- Read some sibling articles and books to have a background understanding of the sibling experience.