Facing Mental Health Diagnosis + Middle Child Syndrome

Updated on November 17, 2010
S.B. asks from Bowling Green, OH
5 answers

Hello - I am the mother of three girls who are very close in age. 13, 12 and 10. My oldest is fairly independent, good student, social. My middle is dyslexic, has a small close nit circle of friends, a little awkward for her age and is sensitive. My youngest is usually a good student, doesn't have many friends who carry over to home, is a little babied.

So here is where the questions come in. The youngest is going through some mental health issues. About a month ago, she started saying that she feels ghosts follow her, her stuffed animals talk to her and protect her, she has high anxiety, nervousness, paranoia, etc. She is now in therapy, waiting on psychiatry and has high anti-anxiety meds to help her cope. We have NO idea where this is coming from, and fear that with the hallucinations, that a serious mental illness is presenting itself. So, needless to say, she has been getting A LOT of attention. Last night, the middle child started crying because she is not getting attention (she has a flair for the dramatic). She cried and yelled because her birthday is next week and I am sure she thinks that it will be just blown off (little does she know that we have a party planned for her).

So, I guess what my questions are -
1) Any mommies have young kids that are dealing with mental illness? If so, how do you deal with it? Any suggestions on the mental health front would be appreciated.

2) How about the moms who have "middle children"? What do you do to make them feel special?

3) Mommies who have any child who "sucks" the attention, due to illness (mental or physical), behavioral, school issues, etc?

Thanks in advance for the input! I always appreciate the feedback.


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answers from Biloxi on

I can't answer question #1, but I do have a middle child. He's the only boy too so I always felt it must suck even more for him. I don't always have much time with each kid separately but this is what I've done for their birthdays...even with a party. We play hookey! I skip work and pull them out of school and we just spend the day together doing whatever. it's a bit harder to do with my son because you know..girls like mani/pedis or window shopping. Maybe you can do this for your daughter even with the bday party. Let her have your absolute attention for the day.

I did this for my oldest (especially if their bday landed during the week)...and she enjoyed every one. When I stopped doing it for her (high school), she was bummed.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Our oldest has ADHD, OCD, encopresis and possibly an eating disorder (getting that evaluated in a couple weeks), so I know how consuming it can be. My best advice is to look online and find boards devoted specifically to the issues you're facing -- try ParentCenter.com and iVillage as a couple of starting points. General boards, you always run the risk of dealing with input from people who have no clue what it's like to be dealing with brain or mental disorders and you'll get useless advice about changing diet or using different household cleaners (or just plain offensive input).

Our oldest (son) obviously sucks up a lot of the attention. However, we do our best to give special attention to our youngest (daughter). So, after dealing with whatever issue our son is creating, I make an active effort to focus on our daughter, even if it's just going over to her art table and watching what she's working on. We also try to do one-on-one time with each of our kids, so no one feels left out. One parent will watch a child while the other takes the other child out. In your situation, I would really try to do something individually with your middle child, in particular ... even if it's just lunch out with mom one weekend. Be honest with her that you're trying to help her sister right now and know it's taking up a lot of time, but that you're so proud of her and love her.

Good luck! It sounds like a difficult situation but you are really doing all the right things in getting medical help. That can really turn things around.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

the doctor medicating your middle child should be a great resource for helping your whole family.

as far as one child getting more attention, my middle has special needs - and i got great advice - that every child will get and requires the same amount of attention - right now it is just (your middle) childs' time.

and it is true - i "parent" more to my special needs child, but go to more sports, etc. and activities for the others - so it all evens out. perhaps there is a way to involve your middle child in helping? even in some capacity? it might make her feel good and important.

good luck - things will get better.



answers from Chicago on

Hi S.,

Just a thought about your middle child - I am a middle child. I also have some issues around anxiety and OCD, that have nothing to do with being a middle child. However, I also fall into the pretty typical personality and situations of middle birth order.

I'm not sure how much of this will relate to your family, since you don't list examples so this is just broad advice based on my own experience - not saying you don't already to these things. It sounds like you are really trying to do what's best for all your kids so I think that is good!

For me, specifically, being the middle kid was about feeling like I was always the 'extra'. I had to go with my brother to his baseball games because she couldn't leave me alone, but I couldn't play because it was an all-boys league. I HAD to play soccer because my brother already played soccer and we could have the same practice times (didn't want to do soccer - wanted to do ballet. I only got to take ballet when my sister was old enough and we BOTH could go at the same time). I had to NOT go to a playdate because my sister was too little and couldn't go or I would have to take her with me so she didn't feel left out. I couldn't borrow my brother's toys cuz I had my own "girl" toys, but I had to share a room with my sister and had to 'share' my toys because she was my sister and we were both girls. etc etc Yep - in retrospect it's all whiny pouty baby stuff. But it REALLY makes an impact on kids when they are younger.
So I would say make sure your middle kid has a life that is all her own. Let her participate in whatever extra curricular activity SHE wants - not just what is convenient for you to get her to because of what your oldest participates in. Let her NOT share certain toys that she loves, but she absolutely should be a good 'family member' and share or play with her siblings sometimes too. I think it's a balancing act.

We dealt with some different mental health issues than in your family- my dad was an alcoholic and drug user who was pretty unstable and would come and go as he pleased with whatever women he pleased. I responded by needing a higher level of control over my own environment. To this day I don't like surprises. So, I can see how a kid who already may feel like they don't have much for themselves may be responding similarly to a sister who is taking up even more time - I mean your middle daughter is 12 - which is the height of "the world only exists for me" pre-teen angst. So, maybe you could ramp up conversation and details with her, instead of NOT giving her information. For example you said "little does she know that we have a party planned for her". Stuff like that would drive me CRAZY as a kid - I really wanted information and I would have spent the whole time before my birthday feeling forgotten. Then I would have felt guilty because I felt that way at the surprise party - and really neither set of emotions is what you want for your kid. Maybe you try to give her some extra 'control' over her environment - let her pick the veggies for dinner or have her be your 'helper' who makes the salad and gets to decide if you add tomatoes or green peppers. That kind of stuff is really helpful for my nephew who has some control issues of his own.

Good luck with your youngest - that is scary and I wish you all the best.



answers from New York on

Reach-out to the school counselors and find out where the local support group for siblings is located. I have referred several families to these groups over the years with positive feedback.

Please don't buy into the "Middle Child Syndrome". It doesn't exist and is not a diagnosis. You should, however, have an honest conversation with your two older daughters about why your younger child is getting more of your energy right now. They probably know most of what is going on, but they need to understand that she may be quite ill and that right now she needs the love and support of everyone.

Then see if you can find 20 minutes a few times a week to spend with your two other daughters alone. Do something fun with them- maybe blow dry their hair, mani/pedi, go for a walk, grab a hot chocolate. Something/anything without the youngest in-tow will remind them that they are important too!

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