Experts believe more attention needs to be placed on how mental health challenges impact the other children in a family; here’s some consideration:
The sibling of a child with bipolar, or other Mental Health Challenge, can experience an overwhelm of emotion when his sibling acts out, perhaps witnessing a volatile tantrum or maybe at the receiving end of a rage-induced meltdown. Due to this highly-stressful environment the sibling could be feeling unsafe, angry or have anxiety—even if he’s old enough to understand that his brother or sister may not be able to control their emotions.
Mimicking negative behavior
It’s common for siblings to pick up negative behaviors, especially if they’re younger and can’t fully comprehend why their sibling is behaving the way they are. They believe that the behavior they see on a daily basis from their brother or sister is normal and before long, they too start having temper tantrums, or have yelling meltdowns if things don’t go their way.
Anxiety and worry
Many siblings struggle emotionally with worry and fear about their brother or sister who is dealing with a mental health challenge. Happy and outgoing children can start to retreat and become withdrawn and have a difficult time sharing their own emotions. They could show outward signs of anxiety, become irritable and their grades may start slipping.
Too much responsibility
Some siblings see their parents struggle with their brother or sister and they want to take on the problem themselves and help out. There can be situations, especially if their brother or sister becomes aggressive to others in the family, that force them to behave older than their age.
It’s common in families when one child either has a physical or mood issue, to consume a lot of concern; and family activities get restricted and less attention is paid to the siblings. It can be more difficult if children are young and can’t yet understand why parents are spending more time dedicated to their brother or sister instead of them. They might think they are inadequate or did something wrong; and it’s common to act out to divert some attention to themselves.