Impact of difficult child's on their siblings


Active Member
I know this came up on another thread.....and got me to thinking.....

My easy child is 3 years older than difficult child. She, unfortunately, got the short end of the stick a LOT because of difficult child and his many trials and tribulations.

As I think back......I was so consumed - emotionally, financially with difficult child all the time, that things slip.

easy child varied between feeling protective of me, and frustrated at what she perceived as my blase' attitude towards some of the things difficult child did without realizing I was simply TIRED.

Now, I feel bad for those things I can't do anything about. I have, on several occassions, apologized to my daughter for the fact that there were times she bore the brunt of his anger because he always perceived that she got 'more' than him - nevermind that I never had the issues with her that I did with him and YES, she got a car, YES she got more privileges than he did......

easy child also had to take on some roles she probably shouldn't have had to- but because it was just the three of us, and I had to travel alot once easy child was out of high school- she stepped in sometimes when difficult child got in trouble at school....etc.

Now, she's so GLAD that I've distanced myself from difficult child and as she has put it "gotten a backbone".

I hate that for her. We lived in a war zone all his life.


Well-Known Member
I know my other kids do not like my difficult children and have nothing to do with them. I don't think, because of their age difference, that there was that big an impact on them while they lived with them. They just don't like how Scott and 36 treat me.


Active Member
I've long feared that the day would come that easy child would wash her hands of her brother. I've tried really hard, for a long time, to tell them both that we are all we have. That for the two of them, no one on the Earth knows their history like each other- however, it's come to the point where if she does, I get it and will resign myself to those decisions. Makes me sad for them both.


Well-Known Member
There is a book called The Normal One about being the sibling of a different or problem kid. It is worth reading, although it is a little heavy handed. Some of the stories are horrifying (mostly abusive parents). But it does shed some interesting and sad light about the burden and often guilt of the easy child.

My difficult child has a twin sister and two younger brothers. The impact on their lives is sad. He used to steal from all of them, but they were so disorganized and lost so much stuff themselves (and I was in so much denial) that I could never be he got away with it a LOT. At one point one of them asked how I could let him live in the same house with them. His twin is a great reader, loves loves loves books (and is studying classics and philosophy in college) and he used to take her books. He doesn't read them. He took everyone's CD's ipods, whatever. The anger they bear about that is deep.

One of my younger boys, whenever he has a fever, hallucinates the sound of people yelling in another room. That would be my ex and me yelling at difficult child , usually caught in a lie, or refusing to get out of bed for school.

My daughter bears a terrible guilt for not somehow protecting him from himself better. She says she always felt like she was older (and she 4 minutes) and should have taken better care of him.

There was a time when we locked him in the front foyer and gave him a sleeping bag. He was about 17..we didn't want him on the streets but couldn't trust him in the house. He used to come and go, use drugs, pass out..his younger brothers (12 at the time) stepped over him on their way to school in the morning.

Recently he went to visit one of his brothers at work (the younger brother works as a life guard). He looks crazy now, long hair, unshaven, dirty clothes. The other kids were like "uh, some one claming to be your brother is asking for you." easy child said "do not ever come to my work again or I will kill you." They have a lot of shame and embarassement.

He also texted his other younger brother and offered to pay him 5 dollars for each new customer (for pot) he delivered.

One of my kids says "can we just admit that it will be better if he just gets hit by a bus"

His twin was home for a week for in August, first time since January. She refused to pick up his calls or to see him.

So...yes...difficult for all.

I have a friend who had bio twins and adopted three kids (a singleton and a set of twins, half siblings) after fostering them. It was a forced extraction, meaning the mother's rights were legally terminated against her will, and she manipulated the kids a lot. All of the three kids were very disturbed and problematic, but one was a true sociopath, and went to juvie after sexually assaulting a classmate. Before that everyone in the house was sleeping with locked doors out of a vague fear of him. Her older daughter slept at friends' houses every weekend all through high school...her mom thought she was just gregarious, but later she told her that she had nightmares, and was trying to stay away from STeven. That kid did a lot of damage.

Don't forget your easy child's. Love them, smile at them, make time for them. Help them know that is isn't their fault, they didn't cause it can't fix it. Help them know that the difficult child's in their lives do NOT have the power to ruin their lives or yours. Make them feel safe in talking about how it has impacted them. Validate their feelings of distress. It causese more and different pain than we can know.


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
The impact on the siblings' private lives -- teachers, friends' families, sadness at holidays -- are peripheral issues to us while we try to manage the difficult child. That means addressing our own guilt issues over where we went wrong. It means the changed dynamic between the parents and extended family while everyone is blaming whichever parent is the one who married in and the difficult child is triangulating for all she is worth.

It changes everything, forever, for the easy child because it changes the family's understanding of who we are and what we stand for.

There is so much rage, such a feeling of helplessness, for the easy child.

Echo, I have never heard the full story of why your difficult child slept In the entryway.

That must have been such a hard time for all of you, Echo.

It's just unbelievable what we all have had to accommodate, what we've had to accept as normal in our traumatized families.



Well-Known Member
A close friend of mine grew up with a difficult child brother. She has suffered with anxiety issues all her life as a result of a chaotic childhood caused by this. Her mother never detached from her brother and continued to put him first and allow him to suck up all her energy until he died of an overdose at the age of 50. My friend says that her main memory of childhood is feeling scared all the time, because she never knew what was going to happen next. She never married and never had children of her own. Growing up with a difficult child brother has affected her whole life.


Well-Known Member
We had quite a lot of support for our parenting when difficult child was young and role of the sibling(s) was always stressed. And we sure did our best to make sure our easy child was not left wanting. We were always very aware what having troubled sibling did cost for him and tried to make sure he got enough attention, wouldn't need to suffer because of his brother and so on.

Now that they both are young adults, I wonder if that backfired. My easy child is a great kid in many ways, does well in about everything, is very well liked by everyone and so on, but darn isn't he smug. He honestly seems to believe he is a much better human being than his brother and has some kind of cosmic right to have everything better than his older brother or other people with issues. difficult child and easy child do get along fine most of the time, but I sometimes think if it is only because difficult child shares easy child's high opinion of easy child and unfortunately also shares easy child's much lower opinion of himself.

We did try to correct easy child, when he was younger, did something wrong, and came up with: "But at least I didn't do this or that, which difficult child did and why are you after me and not him", but when rest of the environment made it clear to him, that he was 'the good one' and difficult child 'the bad seed' I doubt we ever made much of an impression. And I do worry that now as an adult when he will not be (favourably) compared to his brother all the time any more, that attitude will cost him.

And let's face it: That kind of behaviour is really unattractive in anyone.


one day at a time
My older son and his fiancee have said---don't know whether they really mean it or not---that they have thought of not having any children because of all of the things they have witnessed difficult child do over the past years.

They said they didn't know if they could take it.

I said, having kids is worth it. Having both of you has brought me a lot of joy. A great deal of joy. We can only hope that your brother will change in time.

But wow, what a thing to say.


Well-Known Member
My kids also say they don't want part because of difficult child and in part because of their severely autistic 7 foot tall cousin, who actually DOES severely impair my sistwr's quality of life. I tell them the same thing as COM..all my kids have brought me a lot of joy.

It is for them to choose, though. Kids are definitely not an unmixed blessing, no matter what their neurobiology!


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Shooting from the Hip
Pat got the short end of the stick a lot when Belle was living with us. We were so busy dealing with her latest whatever, that we couldn't do anything for him. And every time we tried (like when we took him to the neuropsychologist evaluation), she would ramp up... Any time anyone else got attention, she ramped up (like when husband had shoulder surgery or the first time I got pregnant).

And something just occurred to me. Biomom was, by all accounts (and police reports) a major difficult child as well. HER parents were alcoholics and beat the crap out of one another, got divorced... And bio-uncle also got shafted. Interestingly, uncle works for a local court as a bailiff.

I wonder if... Because biogma was dealing with biomom alone... And uncle lived with his father... that biomom learned to deal with Belle and ignore Pat, just the same as her mother? And that thought... Well, we didn't do much better for a while...

Rose just jumped rear-end over teakettle into the Terrible Twos and Pat started to withdraw, but since I need his help with husband out of town... He's not able to vanish. We talk. We spend time together (with and without Rose). Maybe he has a chance.