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I have a brother who suffers from depression. He is in his late twenties, is unemployed, has almost no social life and lives by himself. Every other weekend for a day, I have him over at my house where I live with my wife and 2 daughters (7 and 3).

There was a time when he would speak and play with my eldest daughter, but the past few months he has begun to ignore her (he would smile and say 'hello' but that is it). My daughter has asked me why her uncle is different now and I just told her that he prefers to be by himself (not sure how to explain his exact condition to her). He still talks with me though (and she has probably noticed this as well).

I don't want to ask him why his behavior changed because I learned a long time ago not to criticize anything he does (he always assumes that I am blaming him or trying to find fault with him).

So given that he is ignoring her now, is it better to keep him away from the house and my daughter? Should I just meet him outside or go over to his place?

For now my daughter seems to have figured out not to expect too much from him and she just plays by herself or with her younger sister when he is around (I play with her also when he leaves).

I want to take care of my brother but I don't want his presence in the house to harm my daughter in any way. He used to have tantrums but he has gotten that under control the past few years and so far he has never "lost it" in front of my kids (although deep down I have a fear that one day he might).

  • I don't know how to formulate this into a good answer, but this could be a teaching opportunity to help your kids understand about depression, how their uncle is sick and that hopefully he will get better. – Justin Mar 1 '16 at 7:27
  • If it possible that drugs are also involved. Sudden changes in personality are very often caused by drug abuse. – user1751825 Aug 28 '18 at 20:00
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Unless your brother is hostile, or sullen, or otherwise behaves inappropriately around your children, I don't think you need to keep him away from them.

I think it's healthy for your children to learn how to be around people with all sorts of varying personality types. Not everyone is bright and cheerful, and that's ok.

It is very difficult dealing with people with depression, and it is often tempting to simply overlook them, but this certainly isn't good for them. Try to keep talking to your brother, but avoid asking him directly about what's wrong, as he likely won't even know himself, and may get frustrated and annoyed by the question.

One word of caution though. Even though I think it's healthy for your children to still be around your brother. Don't let them be around him without another responsible adult. I'm not suggesting that he would harm them or anything else like that, but depressed people have a very insular focus, and this can prevent them from perceiving the needs of others. This makes them poor carers for young children.

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