Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Managing relationship with healthy adult children?

For parents with both MI and not MI adult children, how do you balance the relationship between them? My husband recently expressed to his parents that while he understands that 99% of their time will be dedicated to his sister, he wishes occasionally they would also spend time with him. His brother has had the same conversation with their parents.

I think they both struggle because their parents will arrange for someone to stay with their sister when they go on vacation or golfing or to play tennis, etc. but won’t do it for big events related to them (their wedding, baby shower, big award ceremony, things of that nature that happen only once). And even when events can be modified to try to make her more comfortable, sister’s illness often just makes it impossible to be around other people. Their parents are getting older and both brothers are really wanting to spend more time with them, but even going to their home doesn’t seem to work. Unfortunately the situation will likely only get harder once our child is born (as explained in my other post) because we won’t be able to go to them as easily or as often.

Any advice on how to improve this interaction? We’ve offered to cover the cost of in-home care for the day or make arrangements for a family member to stay with sister.

Some thoughts from a sibling of a MI brother with aging parents. I’m also a independent, self-supporting adult living with SZ/SZA, so I have a somewhat unique perspective. As my parents age we’ve had to prepare for the realities of life without them, their care and our brother’s care when they are not able. It took quite a while to get to this point.

Parents (or our parents at least) tend to hang on to this responsibility for longer than is good for anyone. In my parents there was an accumulation of guilt surrounding choices or mistakes they had made, and a feeling they didn’t want to burden their ‘well’ children with these responsibilities. It seemed they had to get to a breaking point where one of them could no longer stand the current living situation and things had change. Unfortunately until this point we weren’t able to exert much influence, but when it happened the log jam broke and we were able to get much accomplished in a relatively short time. My brother is living independently, my parents moved into a smaller house, a trust was set up for him that owns the house he lives in and one of my siblings is a trustee. And the siblings take turns visiting and offering help and support as needed to all parties.

My advice would be to start instead from a discussion of the burdens your parents feel and what plans they have for transitioning care in the future. Rather than frame the situation as you missing out on sharing time with them, talk about their unfair burden and things that they are missing out on due to assuming sole ownership of that burden. It will take time and they may be very touchy on this subject, as it tends to get tied up in some deep rooted emotional guilt and feelings of being criticized or attacked for decisions long past. Over time, cracks may form and one or both of them may begin to soften to new approaches. Good luck, it’s a difficult problem I know and it can take a sustained and coordinated campaign to change primary caregivers thinking on these matters.

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Thank you @Maggotbrane, this is very helpful. My husband is trying to have that conversation but has run into exactly what you describe - his parents simply do not want to discuss the future or their burden. It sounds like all he can do is continue to talk to them about it.

We have a 18yo daughter with schizotypal personality disorder and a 20yo non-MI son in college and a 16yo non-MI daughter. It is a challenge to balance between all the kids. My son has always been close to my wife and they can talk about anything and anytime. They have very open communication… he isn’t as close with me… because of a rough time in my marriage that has been worked through over time. I am closer to my MI daughter just because we are so much alike… of course sometimes that means we can be at odd with each other too. We don’t want to ignore the needs of the other daughter either… we tried to be there for her when she broke up with her boyfriend…

I think at times, the other kids might resentful at times that my MI daughter has so much say in what we do as a family together, because of her anxieties…

But I try to spend time with the others as well… whether it is watching Sailor Moon on Hulu with my youngest daughter or playing games on the x-box with my son when he is home with college.

We try to have open communication in our family… sometimes it is a challenge when one of them doesn’t want to talk at the moment… so we wait until they are ready to talk.

My AHDH can also make this challenge at times with focusing on listening… but I try.

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Maybe when your baby is old enough, you could get a sitter for your baby and spend time with in-laws and family?

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Yes, we will have to I supposed. Only issue is that it means us making 8 hour trip (4 hours each way) and finding babysitters in a city we don’t live in. We both work 60+ hours per week and will now have a kid. In laws seem ok with traveling at the drop of a hat whenever sister wants to go somewhere, but won’t come up to visit. They are both retired and have been up 4 times in the last 9 years. We go down at least once a month and it’s getting to be unsustainable.

I can understand why their other kids are frustrated - even when we move big events to be in their area, they cancel, no-show, or stay almost no time because they “have to spend time with sister too”. It seems like a tough message to get from your parents, even as an adult.

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I have a 37 year old relatively non MI son that is married and lives on the west coast and teaches part time,. I say relatively because I don’t think that high functioning Asperger’s falls under mental illness, if it does then I stand corrected but he doesn’t get any treatment and hasn’t even been formally diagnosed but his behavior is exactly classic HFA.

My sz son who is 35 lives with me and I am his guardian. When my 2 sons are together they speak minimally and civilly to each other, it is glaringly obvious they have little in common anymore. My oldest ends up in front of a video game and my youngest ends up watching him or going for a walk with me. The lack of emotional connection and commonality between them pains me.

I have tried speaking to my oldest about his brother. He cares about him but has made it clear that he will never be his brother’s keeper-ever. He doesn’t want to understand his brother’s illness but says he is sorry his brother has an illness…he is sorrier that I made myself his lifetime caretaker. I can’t convince him it is a labor of love and sometimes I think my oldest still believes that somehow I love my sz son more than him. Nothing is farther from the truth and I have told him so. I love them differently but both equally more than words can convey. We only have visits every 2 or 3 years due to distance and financial constraints but in spite of the limited ability to freely express feelings in each of my sons, I know that they love me and each other and sometimes that has to be enough.

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I’m sorry, that sounds really tough.

Edited to add: my husband has learned about the disease (NAMI, talked to experts, etc.) and done a lot to prepare for his sister’s future. He’s more just asking his parents to make arrangements for her for special occasions so he can spend time with them too.

Thank you for posting your question. I have two sons, one recently diagnosed with SZ. I want to be sure that I manage this in the best way possible moving forward. It probably hasn’t occurred to your In-laws that they should get someone to stay with their daughter for family events, assuming everyone understands when it’s family. Maybe a conversation before the next event might help?

Thanks again for your post … it will make me think twice about how I manage the future with my own adult children.

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It seems like such an impossible situation to be in. He’s offered to arrange for her care so if she decides not to attend (as almost always happens) they can at least participate. They refuse, bring her and then when she decides to stay in the hotel they cancel or stay for a very short time. This weekend they were co-hosting a baby shower and left after an hour. It really hurt him especially because one of them could have at least stayed.

I have Two “normal” children and one MI child. All adults.

This may be a shot in the dark, but it could be family functions are hard on your parents not because their daughter may or may not attend, but because it reminds them of the life she is missing out having. When they go on vacation or social activities they enjoy the family connection and reminder of what one child is missing out from is not there.

You will find when your child arrives the grief you carry when they are hurt is real. When they are not ‘normal’ it never really goes away. Some parents adapt better than others, but the pain is always there poking at us.

Instead of pointing out the obvious, empathize with the pain they have. Let them knew they are welcome to attend, but you understand why they may chose not to do so.

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That makes a lot of sense - I can certainly imagine how it must feel to know she likely will never have a family of her own. But I also empathize with my husband and his desire to have time with his parents too, especially when what he’s asking for is just a couple of hours on one particular day.

Showed my husband this site thinking it might help to hear from other families going through the same thing. He spent a few hours reading and seemed more despondent than before. I asked him why and he said it hurt to see so many parents on here moving heaven and earth to get their children care while his parents won’t even read a book about SZ or attempt to speak to a doctor. My heart broke for him and for SIL. Fanatical religion and stigma are so terrible.

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That’s so so sad. My heart just sank reading your post.

I hope he will somehow make peace with such disappointment. Maybe if he continues to learn about this illness, from this forum or other sources, it’ll somehow help. Knowledge is power.

Peace to you both.

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Thank you. It was heartbreaking to see his reaction. He can’t understand why they won’t do anything. When he points out it’s a disease and options for getting SIL care his parents respond that they don’t want to talk about it and that SIL “is not like THOSE people” (meaning other people suffering from SZ).