A mom writes in asking about a tricky family situation. Should she let her fiancé’s schizophrenic sister, who is described as “very mentally ill,” live with her family, including her 7-year-old daughter?
Over on the Mamas Uncut Facebook page, our robust community of moms is always having a conversation about topics that matter. We like to highlight those conversations from time to time. Important mom questions. Thoughtful mom answers. Let’s hear from the community!
A member of the community asks:
Advice needed. My fiancé’s sister is schizophrenic. I’ve only met her a few times. It’s clear that she is very mentally ill. And very medicated. It’s so sad. She constantly rocks when she is sitting down. His immediate family is very cool. I like them all. We are considering doing a mother-daughter home with his dad and sister in one part, and myself, my fiancé, and daughter on the other side. Could this be a bad idea or have a negative impact on my 7-year-old daughter?– Mamas Uncut Community Member
Let’s see what advice the community responded with!
Schizophrenia (and Mental Illness in General) Does Not Equal Danger
“We have a severely handicapped nephew and we’ve always had him around the other kids. It’s a sad part of life that kids need to learn. They always treated him well and respect him. People with disabilities are human beings and should be treated as such. Unless her future sister in law is dangerous, I see nothing wrong with it.”
“Only about three of these comments you should listen to. Just because someone is schizophrenic does not… I repeat does not …mean they are dangerous. And this is what’s wrong with this world.”
“I have a friend who is schizophrenic. And she’s great around my daughter. I mean, I don’t leave her alone with my daughter for long periods of time. Not because I’m scared she’d hurt my daughter, but just a precaution she herself wanted to take. Just because she has a mental illness don’t make her a monster. But then you have to educate your 7-year-old on mental illnesses so she knows. In the end, it’s up to you.”
“You’re not leaving your kid alone with them, so I don’t know why it would matter. Children are resilient and need to be shown at a young age that not everyone is “perfect” or fits into a certain box. Have the conversation before. “So and so might act a little differently at times but is still your family and we love them.””
“A mentally ill family member is nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of. Mental illness is part of life and having a sick family member around your 7-year-old will teach her compassion and kindness instead of ignorance and fear. Discuss this thoroughly with your hubby and the rest of the family to see what is best for everyone personality wise and financially. But don’t see her illness as a deal breaker. Read up on schizophrenia and educate yourself as part of making this decision as well. That may help a lot. Good luck to you and your family.”
Some Moms Would Not Feel Comfortable With This Situation
“I wouldn’t. I think it could be stressful for all of you. Being loving and supportive of an individual with mental illness yes of course; living with them in the same house when you have a choice, and forcing your children to do the same? I wouldn’t take it on. And I don’t think it would be fair to your daughter and/or any future children. Just my 02.”
“I would not do it. It takes a toll on the whole family and can be traumatizing for the child.”
“Sounds like a very toxic idea especially for your children.”
“You do not need a schizophrenic person in your home. She’s family and it would be good to remain supportive as long as you’re able. But you need some healthy distance between her and your home. Yes, it would likely affect your daughter, whether directly or indirectly.”
Proceed With Caution
“You need to understand what could happen if she stops taking her medication. I think it’s great you want to help, but the safety of your child comes first and you should be knowledgeable about HER specific illness. Also, 7 is old enough to start teaching your daughter about differences like mental illness… Obviously, don’t go into great depth as you don’t want to scare her about her aunt, but your daughter also needs to be prepared of what to do if anything happens.”
“All of you preaching there’s nothing wrong with mental health issues must not know or you haven’t seen first-hand bad schizophrenia… No, there’s nothing wrong with mental health issues. They happen and children should absolutely be educated, but people with schizophrenia have episodes and they cannot even help what they hear or do most of the time. Plus I think living with in-laws would be rough. She’s medicated but there’s still a possibility for episodes. I guess it just depends how you’d think you’d handle or explain them.”
It Depends on Other Variables
“Do what you and your partner think is best. My brother is also a paranoid schizophrenic and while not all people with schizophrenia get violent, my brother does. As much as it hurts my mom, he is not allowed in my daughter’s life anymore. She is 5 and when she asks about him we tell her that he “is sick and you can’t be around him for now.””
It really depends on the sister. Not all or even most mentally ill people are dangerous. It’s good to educate your daughter and it is an experience that will probably give her great compassion in the future. The only thing that would make me question it is if she makes it a habit of going off her meds or has become violent in the past. If that’s not the case, then I wouldn’t say no right off the bat, but it’s up to you to decide what you want your child to be exposed to. Good luck.”
Educate Your Child
“This is ridiculous. My son is 5 and has been around schizophrenic, bipolar, downs, autism, wheelchairs, deaf and blind, Prader Willi, all with severe disabilities on top of their initial diagnosis, the list goes on and on. Ever since he was 2 years old. It is my line of work. Educate your child. Set boundaries and rules with your daughter. That is her family and that is part of life that every child should know about and be educated about.”
“You just explain that she has an illness and go on with normal life.”
It’s important to underline the point made by several community members: People with mental illnesses are not inherently dangerous! That is a horrible stigma we have in our society, and everyone suffers because of it, especially those with mental illnesses.
So just because your fiancé’s sister has schizophrenia does not mean she should not be welcome in your house. We agree with other commenters that you need to do what you feel comfortable doing. If you are not comfortable having her in your house, that is a discussion you need to have with your partner. We agree that it would be a good idea to do some research on schizophrenia and maybe talk to a professional about the illness and your specific situation to see if it helps you make a decision.
We wish you the best of luck, mama, and hope this advice was helpful!
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