Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Please advice on helping my sz sister's daughter

My sister is going through her second episode of psychosis after being in remission for 5 years. She has a 6.5 year old daughter.

My sister believes her husband wants to kill her and harm their daughter. Since the husband seems to aggravate her condition, she is currently living with my parents so we can take care of her until she makes a recovery.

We manage to keep her daughter occupied after school (which is only four hours), before she goes to bed. However, every second cant be monitored and and child also misses her mother and notices how she keeps sleeping.

Today my sister told my niece that her father is on a airplane and it will crash if he tries to come to them. Then later she told her that her father only loves things and not people. This confused my niece but my mother quickly distracted her. I am sure the kid is probably scared and confused as she loves her father a lot and he is a nice man. We are also worried that my sister might text or call or say something to my niece’s teachers at school. how do we explain to the kid whats going on without confusing her more?

This is an interesting question.

I think children should be provided an explanation for an illness that they can understand,whether it is a mental illness, a physical illness, or a physical or mental disability.

I found this: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pretend-Friends-schizophrenia-illnesses-hallucinations/dp/1849056242

I think it could be a starting point for some talks with your niece so that she can better understand her mother’s recent behaviors and perhaps lessen her own anxiety about what is happening.

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Thank you Vallpen for sharing this information. However, i was already thinking on these lines, but then i worry that my niece is at such an innocent and tender age, she might say something inappropriate her mother, which may end us with her loosing her trust. its very difficult to also explain secrecy to a kid that age. we are so so so worried.

I will get the book and give it a read, maybe it can help. Thank you

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I found this info…although it is directed for a sibling, this may help you think about possible things to help this young girl. I’m not sure that a 6 or 7 year old can understand mental illness but yes, a discussion that the child can understand geared to the child’s level. This is a real trauma for the child. I think that the child’s school counselor should be told and the counselor may possibly be able to offer additional help, or at least to allow the girl to talk about what she is feeling in a setting that is away from her family. If the teachers have any concerns, they would most likely reach out to the counselor.
https://www.nami.org/Extranet/Education,-Training-and-Outreach-Programs/Signature-Classes/NAMI-Homefront/HF-Additional-Resources/HF-AR-6-Providers-Help

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Some great recommendations and suggestions here. One thing you may not have considered is to try delicately talking to her mother about things she says that upset her daughter. Despite delusions and clouded thinking, you can be both psychotic and follow rules and modify behaviors if motivated.

I somehow managed to keep it together enough to work a part-time technical job with some important responsibilities and go to school while delusional and unmedicated. In my mind I designated work and school as sort of psychosis-free zones and only allowed myself to talk about my problems with my psychiatrist and a primary caregiver. For the most part I was able to stick to this. Perhaps you can suggest to your sister that voicing her concerns be confined to the house while her daughter is at school. You may be able to team with a CBT practitioner to teach her these coping skills. They may prove helpful later on in her recovery. Good luck.

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The key conversation for my situation was in a courtroom. I had to tell the judge about my daughter’s illness without making my daughter mad. I said, “My daughter hears voices from higher beings that watch over the city and she can also read minds.” That quick remarks was true to my daughter (so didn’t make her mad) and told the judge that my daughter was delusional and hallucinating. He told her he was releasing her from jail (but he ordered her to be Baker Acted when released without telling her that). She was stabilized on a medication during that particular hospitalization and had no hard feelings toward me or the police/judge afterwards.

Your niece can understand somehow that her mother is ill, and your sister can understand somehow that she is scaring her daughter with certain remarks. How you communicate to each of them must be with true statements so there is no need to teach the young one “secrecy” or to worry about something “coming out” and making the other upset.

It is tricky to manage, but can be done (and must be done).

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