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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5823
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I currently have a sister n law that has very many

Customer Question

Hello, I currently have a sister n law that has very many narcissistic behaviors and my nephew is always getting sick. Unexplained fevers, constant coughing, recently started throwing up, allergies. She claims that he has a dairy allergy but doesn't give him his medicine and still feeds him dairy everyday. He seems worse every time I see him. He is withdrawn and barely talks. He is 3 years old and I worry about his safety. The mother doesn't show signs of concern. She lashes out on him for the smallest things.
She has a constant need to be a bully and be in control and need for attention. She has numerous affairs that my brother ignores because if brought up, there is a huge blow out and doesn't want to risk not seeing his son if he does anything about it.
She confided in me once that she was verbally abused as a child and had an eating disorder.
I don't want to read into everything that I read online but I can't help but feel if I don't do something, that something bad could happen to my nephew.
Need some advice from a professional.
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 9 months ago.

Hello, I'd like to help you with your problem.

It is often very difficult to deal with a relative who is showing signs of a mental illness. When you add vulnerable children to the situation, it can be hard to know what you can do to help.

The first step in any situation like this is to see who can help you. You do have some options to help on your own, but getting others involved gives you the support you need and can make things easier. Have you tried approaching your brother about your concerns? If not or if your previous attempts have not worked out, try approaching him with the support of another family member. Be gentle and caring when you talk with him, but also firm about your concerns for your nephew. See if your brother will intervene. As the child's parent, he has rights to protect his child and can take action if he is willing.

However, if your brother is unable or unwilling to help, you may want to talk to other family members to see if they have witnessed your sister in law's behavior. If you can get other family to agree and help your nephew, there is a better chance of getting attention paid to the situation.

Whether or not your brother and other family members support you, the next step is to seek out help from child welfare agencies. You want to have professionals involved that can assess the situation first hand and if needed, intervene. You can often make these reports anonymously so you don't risk your sister in law or family finding out if you feel that would be a concern. Your information says you are located in Canada. Here is a link to a child welfare agency in Canada:

If they cannot help you directly, they can give you resources and agencies that can help. Just talking to a professional and getting advice and support can give you direction in how you can help your nephew.

If you can, keep track of the situation with your sister in law and write down dates, times and information about what you witness. This will help the child welfare professionals to see a pattern and it will give them more to work with if they do get involved.

If you are close to your brother and sister in law and they allow you to spend time with your nephew, do so as often as possible. Show him how much you love him, have fun with him and give him a chance to talk with you. You don't need to necessarily bring up his home situation, but just by being there you can help him. As he gets older, he will know you are there and that you care about him.

There is a fine line in situations like this, but as much as possible, don't give up. It's hard on you to do this, but you may be able to help your nephew and change his situation even if he just knows you are there for him. Don't forget to care for yourself however. If this becomes more difficult and you find yourself becoming anxious, depressed or stressed in any way, talk to a therapist. You need support and help in coping with the situation. No one should have to do this alone.

I hope this has helped you,

Mary Ann

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