I tend to not like the word different or normal as it pertains to children or even people for that matter. After all, each of us is unique but I am having difficulty coming to form another word that makes sense right now. All I can say is that my middle child is different than my other two children; sure my oldest and youngest are different from each other as well, but not as much as my middle is to them. My middle child has the biggest heart, just like his siblings he loves with all his might. Unlike his siblings, it takes more time to earn and keep that love and trust. My middle child is sometimes guarded, anxious and unable to trust right away. My middle child has a huge bond with me, which is why when last week he had a bloody nose at school and I had to bring a shirt to school, the school nurse brought it to him. The school nurse and I both knew if I brought that shirt to him, he would have an issue. The anxiety he has would kick in because a familiar “safe” person would be there and his anxiety would flood over the fact that he had a bloody nose at school. When I am not visible, he fights better, harder and knows he doesn’t have a choice other than to do that. Essentially his anxiety helps him stay bottled up at school, so his moods don’t show when at school.
What I am having an issue with at this time is that my middle child’s medication dose seems to be off a little bit, sadly with a growing boy, his medication doses need to change often. Combine the fact that this child, Aj, has always been the type to have a high tolerance for medication, meaning his body metabolizes it quicker than most people. So when Aj’s medication is off, his moods are off, when his moods are off, everything is off. It’s a domino effect. When you have a child who has a mood disorder or something “different” going on, it plays a toll on that child and the family as a whole. Since we are a very close knit family, it plays a hard toll on us deeper than those who are not as close knit.
My oldest understands Aj has a mood disorder, she has lived this much longer than her little five year old brother. My daughter knows when Aj is off what to expect and how to keep away to ensure she isn’t hurt. While my daughter still tends to instigate her brother, which baffles me, because when his manic moods come into play – he won’t think twice before reacting. He has close to no control and sometimes he has no control. He has a chemical imbalance in his brain, it’s not something one can control except with proper medication and therapy. I don’t have to explain to my daughter what is going on with Aj when he is off, she just knows. This is a child who, before Aj was medicated, was found on occasion in a corner crying huddled up because her little brother was so insanely angry that she couldn’t bear being near him. It wasn’t safe. That was years ago and since then we have done a lot of therapy and worked to ensure Aj gets proper help.
My youngest on the other hand, has no clue what’s up with his brother. To my youngest it’s all about “monkey see, monkey do” and so it’s harder because I have to spend time making sure my Aj isn’t off his rocker and going to hurt someone while at the same time teach my youngest that Aj’s behavior, while not acceptable, isn’t something he is doing on purpose. Aj cannot control it. Aj has medicine that is not working right and he doesn’t mean to be this way. Don’t get me wrong, Aj still has consequences for his actions; he has to for two reasons 1) no matter if his medication is off or not, we can’t go backwards in parenting just to “keep the peace” and 2) his siblings, especially the little one, needs to know this is not tolerated behavior no matter what. I am having a hard time figuring out how to explain to my youngest that his brother is “different’, that his brother has a condition that makes his moods be up and down. His brother loves him but he doesn’t love the same as sissy and little brother does. It’s different.
Like I said, my oldest grew up with Aj not on medication, then on different kinds of medications until finally we had a person diagnose the mood disorder and use child mood disorder medication to see if that worked, and it did. My oldest has seen the ups and downs and has lived through it. She has seen it play the toll on me as a single Mom, a married Mom and a dating Mom. My oldest has experienced this for longer of a time and she is older so she gets it and she tries to accept it because she knows I will fight to fix this. Always.
I am at a loss on how to work with my youngest so he understands what’s up with his brother. I don’t want their bond broken because Aj’s medication is off and his current psychiatrist intern isn’t really hearing us. She is too new to him and so we have to start over because of this new person. Starting over isn’t an option because 1) we have worked too hard to get here and 2) it’s a negative domino effect to the family as a whole.
How do you work with siblings to ensure they understand what’s up with their sibling who is “different”? Open for advice and suggestions for what worked for you.