Well, we’ve made it through the holidays, with so much focus on family and spending time together. We’ve read all the articles about how to get along with those difficult relatives that, thankfully, you only need to interact with once or twice a year. We do what we need to do, and then we’re good for another year!
But what if that “difficult relative” lives with you? What if he or she is someone you love dearly, someone you long to have a close relationship with? And what if you are too young to truly grasp the reasons why this closeness isn’t happening? Actually, there’s a lot you don’t understand. Why does he or she act oddly at times? Why (in some cases) does this person avoid you, or worse, not even allow you both to be in the same room?
I’m talking, of course, about being a sibling of someone with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I have previously written about my family’s situation and how we dealt with our daughters when our son Dan’s OCD was severe. I talk about what I think we did right, and what I think we did wrong. Of course each family’s story is unique, but for younger children who are living with a sibling with OCD, there are some questions I feel should always be considered:
Are they being teased about their brother or sister at school? Do they resent not getting as much attention as their sibling with OCD? Do they feel uncomfortable in their own home? Do they think their sibling’s OCD is somehow their fault? Do they feel frustrated because they want to help their sibling and don’t know how? Are they embarrassed, confused, jealous? Do they feel scared, or neglected? Do they think they might develop OCD also?
This is only the tip of the iceberg. So much to consider!
The Washington Post recently published a wonderful article titled “Eight things siblings of children with special needs struggle with.” While it doesn’t specifically focus on OCD, each struggle mentioned rings true for families dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. I highly recommend checking it out.
While it is quite possible that siblings of those with OCD will grow up to be more empathetic, responsible, and understanding than many of their peers, we must realize they are also often burdened. As are we parents. It can be heartbreaking to witness the toll OCD takes on everyone in the household. And while it is a monumental task to do right by each child in the family when obsessive-compulsive disorder is involved, it is necessary. Parents should seek support and professional advice whenever possible.
And we need to remember that children themselves can be extremely helpful as well. Asking all of our children what they feel and what they need from us is so important. Open communication among everyone in the family can go a long way. With a lot of hard work, love, and proper treatment for OCD, there’s a good chance that close sibling relationship can become a reality.