difficult child's impact on siblings...


New Member
I am sure that some of you have come across this problem before, but I am having problems with the negative impact our difficult child is having on our other children. It would not be so bad if they were closer in age and they could defend themselves, but our difficult child is 12 and her siblings are only 3 and 5. She has my 5 year old so depressed that on days our difficult child is home, my 5 year old does not even want to come in the house!!!!! She would rather sit outside on our porch swing all night long, by herself than have to face her sister!!! Not to mention that my 5 year old is now showing symptoms of severe depression if you can believe that!!!! She cries all the time, is never happy and has basically NO appetite and was having problems sleeping.

Our difficult child's therapist has suggested that she would support us 100% on getting our 5 year old in to see her as well, but that is kind of a foggy barrier I am not sure I want to cross...if I WERE to put her in counseling, I am not sure it is a good idea for them to see the same therapist....but then again, our difficult child's therapist knows her and has seen her in action, so she understands what our 5 year old is dealing with....not to mention, how on earth could I take her to someone new and try to explain that she needs therapy becuase of the trauma that has been inflicted by her sister?!?!?!?!

I address only the 5 year old because our other daughter, our 3 year old does not seem to have any problems dealing with our difficult child's nasty behavior...she just looks at her older sister and tells her "I don't like you, go away..." and then smiles really big at her and walks away...I wish my 5 year old were that unaffected!!!! But that also makes me worry that maybe she is causing emotional pain to the three year old, who is even LESS competent in expressing herself and we may just not know about it, and I worry that it will just explode one day....

That doesn't even begin to address the issues of our younger children in dealing with the adjustment of having another sibling in the house, as our difficult child has only been with us since January. Not only is there another sibling in the house that they have to learn to live with, but it is a sibling that they feel is taking everyone away from them because she requires so much extra attention.

If anyone has advice, it would really be appreciated!!! Thanks!


Active Member
While I have 3 difficult children and a easy child, my 12-year old daughters behavior has very negatively affected the others. We are going to beg-borrow-charge the money for her to be in all-day day care this summer. My other children --and I--deserve a chance to have a "normal" summer. We can't if she is home. She is going to sleep-away camp for 2 weeks and day camp all the other weeks (6:30am-6:00pm). She has agreed to this plan because she knows she can't maintain all day with the family. She will have fun. She understands that family life will go on without her and we will have fun. She has been much nicer to her sibs since this plan was worked out.

Good Luck,


New Member
Gosh...I don't have any advice, just hugs!!! Our 3 yr old is starting to do a LOT of imitating of our 8 yr olds behavior which is NOT fun by any stretch of the imagination. The other day I couldn't get him in the car because he decided it would be fun to imitate a rage that his brother had the day before. :frown:

:::big hugs:::

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
I know it's hard-my easy child is older than difficult child but has really suffered due to him. We do have her seeing a therapist and it is the same one difficult child used to see. She doesn't see him any more but did see both for awhile. It really ended up not being a problem-he was switched for other reasons.

I wish I had more advice but wanted to send supportive thoughts your way-I do think counseling is a good idea. Hugs.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
I would recommend family therapy. It sounds like your 5 year old needs a safe place to talk/express her feelings as only a 5 year old can.

When wm was here & "bullying" kt, we worked very hard on kt being her only little being; standing up to her brother & saying "no" in a very loud powerful voice. It really didn't matter what wm was doing - kt had to learn to stand up for herself. It was a small step in the process & took a bit of time for kt to believe that she could stand up to her twin brother.

As much as possible, don't feed into difficult children negatives while making sure your easy child gets regular positive attention. If possible sit on the swing with her & spend some silly time together.

I wish I had more to offer - difficult children in a family are draining on everyone. Their illness isn't their fault, however the rest of the family needs to stand up to the chaos & remain strong & healthy. Your easy child, at her age, needs a lot of help in doing this.


New Member
well my 2 are twins so this makes it extremely hard on my daughter. they are each others best friends and one of the reasons we switch teachers was because they were in the same class and easy child was stressing out everytime difficult child go into trouble.

she wants so hard to stick up for him even though at times she takes the brunt of his frustrations at home. you tell her to leave the room or get away from him and she just can't.

we get the 'marsha, marsha, marsha' theme going and i have tried to make special time just for her but it is hard as difficult child gets very jealous and butts in.

the school said they were going to try to set up times for easy child to see the school sw but she is so overloaded that that hasn't happened.

it is just all around heartbreaking.

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
Add us to this also. My easy child is older than difficult child and all throughout their school years easy child tried to disassociate with difficult child as much as she possibly could. If a teacher mentioned the connection, ie., "Are you difficult child's sister?" easy child would literally cringe and often ask to go to the bathroom just to take a breather. I know she often felt anger and hate at her difficult child sister because it seemed to her that difficult child was going out of her way to be bad and draw negative attention to herself, thus causing easy child major embarrassment! easy child also saw a counselor when she began suffering from panic attacks and had trouble sleeping (she was imagining someone breaking into the house - not typical for a 16 year old).

I always felt like I was working overtime to compensate for time lost with easy child due to extra time dealing with difficult child's rage attacks. It was awful at times.

I agree that family counseling would really be beneficial. If 5 y/o requires a counselor, then I would suggest a separate counselor. It's not so much about the counselor knowing difficult child's history and what it does to PC5 as it is about helping 5 y/o cope and respond appropriately, feel secure in her place in the family, etc. If PC5 were suffering from PTSD due to something else that was outside your reach, you would not be able to bring that cause into the counseling sessions. IOW, PC5's issues need to be addressed on their own and most counselors would suggest an individual counselor for each child unless it's a family therapy situation.



Active Member
I think it is all too common for siblings to have issues due to our difficult child's. Before difficult child spent over a year living out of our home, easy child was very affected. Luckily she didn't pick up his behaviours and become out of control. Unfortunatly she became very shy and quiet and timid. I hated watching her grow up becoming a shell of the little girl I knew she must be inside. Things changed so dramatically after difficult child moved out of the house, that I had many crying breakdowns watching her blossom and come out of that shell. I don't think I saw how bad the effect on easy child was until she became used to difficult child not being in the home and felt free to be herself.
When difficult child moved home I made it very clear to him how badly easy child was affected and how well she did away from his behaviours and the chaos in the house and I also made it very clear it would never be acceptable again. easy child doesn't deserve to suffer for his outbursts etc. In the 5-6 months since difficult child has come home, him and easy child get along well. Due to age difference they don't interact alot, but they do get along and he acts loving towards her. It helps that he has his behaviours in check. I no longer have to watch easy child disappear into a shell.
I dont know what easy child would be like had difficult child not moved out, or had he moved home and reverted back to his old ways. I never did find out the best way to minimize impact to easy child, although I tried many things.
I understand your concern and you are not alone in this dilemma.


Active Member
easy child#1 used to be protective of difficult child and would stand up for difficult child when he got in trouble, especially at school. Now he doesn't want to have anything to do with difficult child. That is especially hard because they are just 1 year apart and in our neighborhood the 5th and 6th graders hang out together.

easy child also knows how to push difficult child's buttons, which make things even worse.

easy child#2 and difficult child actually spend more time together, and it's a love/hate relationship. Luckily, easy child can stand up for herself when difficult child is being rotten. I'm sure it is having a negative affect on her, but she seems to accept difficult child for who he is whereas easy child#1 keeps expecting him to be "normal" and gets really frustrated when he's not.


my older daughter abused my younger one when they were growing up (I didn't know the extent of it). The younger one began dissociating to cope with the abuse. I didn't know anything was wrong--thought she was the most stable person in our household until the older dtr went away to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC). Then younger dtr felt safe enough to start acting out--it was very scary to find out she was hearing voices, seeing a "dark man", and was generally just anxious all the time. She has been in therapy for 2 yrs now and yesterday was admitted to our psychiatric unit in our local hospital because her anxiety was overwhelming her.

Looking back with my great hindsight now I would have spent less energy trying to "help" older dtr and made sure the younger one was not "ignored"--I didn't really ignore her but she feels I did. She was the "good kid" so she didn't seem to require so much attention. Her view is that she had to hold the family together.

Anyway, I definitely think your five yr old could benefit from being in therapy and I would have a separate one for her. You can tell the therapist what is going on in your household--you aren't the cause of the abuse, you are trying to deal with it.

My heart goes out to you,


New Member
My difficult child's behavior also impacted my easy child. He has Down Syndrome and would mimick the way that she behaved. He was constantly telling us to be friend and would run to his room crying when anyone raised their voices.

Since she has been gone, he no longer yells and slams doors when he is not getting his way. Thankfully her didnt have any negative impact on my step-kids but I think over time it would have also happened.



Active Member
I feel strongly on this topic because of a younger brother molesting most of my siblings. Home needs to be a safe place for everyone. Right now the front porch swing is safer for your easy child than the home and that has got to be heart breaking for you. A therapist for your easy child might have better ideas on helping easy child feel safe.

My difficult child 1 has done awful things to difficult child 2 and easy child. We are teaching difficult child 2 to stand up to difficult child 1 and its beginning to make a differance. difficult child 2 now can yell no at difficult child 1, and that clues us in to come running. If difficult child 2 is upset and difficult child 1 is in the room we either remove him to where we are or stay in the room and watch them. Even if it looks like it has nothing to do with difficult child 1. Fair? No, but then neither is having an older brother that tried to kill you. We've learned that difficult child 1 can bait difficult child 2 and cause him upset with very small things. A look that says 'I'm going to get you', threatening favorite toys, taking the blanket he was wrapped in and giving him another, ect... Now difficult child 1 is testing us. Can I get away with hitting difficult child 2 if I hit him softly. He gets the same reaction from us that hitting him hard would've. I have no illusions that difficult child 1 won't go back to what he was doing before if we don't keep up our gaurd. And, I expect that as difficult child 2, easy child, and anyothers come into our family get older that therapy for them to deal with difficult child 1 might be in order.