Managing Anxiety with Siblings

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By no fault of his own, a child's anxiety reverberates throughout the family system. From the emotional burden of deflecting the stress to the practical limitations of being unable to get a good night's sleep, go on a vacation, or on family outings or get to school on time, siblings of an anxious child have to absorb some of the fallout.

Parents can be caught in the middle. On the one hand, they fully understand and can identify with the siblings' complaints-"it's not fair, why can't we go to the mall, just because she's going to freak out?" or, "you spend all of your time with him at night, just because he's scared, what about me?" On the other hand, parents are distressed when a sibling utters harsh words-"I hate him, he's a weirdo, he's just trying to get away with things." A parent's task is two-fold, first, to set safety limits-no name calling, no teasing, etc, and second, to make sure that the sibling is validated for these feelings of frustration. Parents can validate the feelings without condoning the inappropriate expression of those feelings. It is important to correct the sibling's perception that a child is somehow enjoying or benefiting from anxiety, and replace this perception with a more accurate understanding of the no-fault nature of anxiety. (See Anxiety 101). Explaining that when it comes to sibling, fair doesn't mean equal, and planning special time for siblings either with you or with available friends or relatives will help prevent the spread of feeling trapped by anxiety.



Brought to you by The Children's and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety.

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