When a teen or young adult is struggling, it is common that much of the focus, energy, and time is spent on them:
If they are struggling with depression, there may be safety needs to take into account.
ADHD/ADD takes a whole different skill set as a parent to help their teen or young adult.
When there are siblings of the teen or young adult who is struggling, they can many times not receive the attention that they need. These are siblings who largely have their stuff together. They are taking care of their responsibilities on their own and independently.
3 Types of Siblings of Struggling Teens or Young Adults
Sibling Type #1
This is the sibling that has their stuff together. This sibling works fairly independently and it's a relief to parents that they don't have too many issues with this child.
This sibling understands that the parents need their help. They can see the struggles are real and genuine that their sibling is experiencing.
They empathize with both their brother/sister who is struggling and their parents. They may go out of their way to make sure their parents don't have to focus too much on them.
Sibling Type #2
This sibling may not have the awareness that sibling #1 has. This is a kiddo who is largely and simply self-sufficient, doesn't struggle with emotional or behavioral challenges, and largely takes care of themselves.
Again, when a parent's time, energy, and focus is spent on the teen or young adult who is struggling, it is helpful to have another child who can take care of business themselves.
Sibling Type #3
Sibling type #3 started out as either type 1 or type 2. However, somewhere along the line, this sibling may suddenly start to show problems of their own.
They suddenly may start acting out in anger. They may start to slack on their homework, violate rules, etc. The behavior is simply not like this kiddo and a stark contrast to who they are and have been.
This sibling either figured out consciously or unconsciously that in order to get attention, they need to follow their brother/sister's lead and have problems. They have watched their sibling struggle and get all the attention. So, it would make sense that they see this as a way to also get their attention needs met.
It may not be positive attention but when you may not be getting the attention you need, any attention, no matter the type, is attention none the less.
Ways to Recognize & Provide the Attention Needs of the Other Siblings
It can happen very unintentionally where parent simply don't think of the other siblings as needing attention. As the other siblings are largely self-sufficient and seem happy, it appears as though they are fine.
And most teenagers or young adults won't communicate that they need more of your attention. They either don't want to add additional stress to an already stressful situation or may be embarrassed to make such a request.
Being proactive is the answer. Take stock of the attention you are giving the other siblings who are not struggling. There are some simple ways to be sure that their attention needs are met as well.
1. Schedule Father/Mother (or both) With Your Child
There are several advantages of scheduling time with the other child:
If it's on the schedule, it will more likely happen regularly.
It shows the other child that they are important and valued.
In the hectic day to day, if it is on the schedule, you can plan around that time. It won't get lost in the shuffle of life.
It's important that the sibling see that they are important. They may "know" they are on an instinctual level. But going out of your way to ensure you spend quality time with them cements this in their minds and hearts.
2. Regular Texts or Notes of Gratitude & Appreciation
A simple way of helping the sibling get their attention needs met is through regular texts or notes. Send them texts or write them notes along the lines of:
"Thank you so much for your understanding of what your brother/sister is struggling with. I know that we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on helping them and I wanted to let you know how much I love and appreciate you."
"Thank you for doing your chores and homework without being asked. As your mom/dad, that really means a lot and we love and appreciate you."
"I really had a great time spending time with you yesterday when we went to get ice cream. You are an amazing kiddo and I'm happy that I get to be your mom/dad."
I use the word "regular" here as when parents start this approach, it sometimes dies off over time.
When you do this consistently over time, it demonstrates to the sibling just where your heart is. Even though you may not be able to spend as much time, focus, and energy with them, they see that you are making them important to do special things like this.
3. Regular Positive Verbal Praise (Away From the Teen/Young Adult Who May Be Struggling)
Because so much time, focus, and energy may be spent with the teen or young adult who is struggling with depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, etc., we may lose sight of recognizing the other siblings with verbal praise.
Making it a point to find something each day to thank them for, express gratitude, or express appreciation can help.
And a key point is to do this away from the teen or young adult who is struggling.
When you give verbal praise to the other siblings in front of the teen or young adult who is struggling, the teen or young adult may feel as though you are making a comparison. Depending on what the teen or young adult is struggling with, your positive verbal praise to one sibling could tap into their depression or anxiety.
Shame is often a part of depression or anxiety. There is no basis for the shame other than depression and anxiety are pretty convincing in making them feel ashamed.
Giving positive praise in front of the teen or young adult who is struggling could touch up on their shame nerves which are pretty sensitive.
Find a time where the sibling is not around the teen or young adult. You can pull them aside is a subtle way or when you naturally are together away from the sibling, let them know your gratitude and appreciation for what a great kiddo they are.
This is not in comparison to their sibling and it's important that they don't get that kind of message. You are giving them positive verbal praise because of who they are independently of any other person.
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Providing Teen & Young Adult Counseling for Anxiety in Katy, Tx & Houston
Sometimes a teen or young adult who is struggling could benefit from seeing a counselor. And there are times where the family system has been strained and stressed where family therapy can be helpful.
If you are ready to start teen therapy, young adult therapy. or family therapy, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
To succeed in any relationship takes work. This is a common understanding that many of us have.
However, sometimes life will throw challenges at us that create situations that put strain on our marriage or relationship. It may be due to:
Choices and actions that have been made by one partner.
Financial downturn in the economy creating financial strain.
Feeling like you're growing apart.
Feeling like you don't have as much in common as you used to.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens, young adults, and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.
He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, counseling young adults, and family counseling.
Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.
Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.
If you are ready to start teen counseling or young adult therapy call, text, or email us today!
Phone Number: 281-519-6364