Acknowledge The Feelings of Siblings of Special Needs Children
Siblings of special needs children face issues which impact their emotional health. Some siblings feel neglected or overshadowed by the level of attention their “special” sibling receives. Parents don’t intend to favor one child over another, but having a child with special needs often requires more care and attention than a parent can give. Parents should acknowledge the feelings of neglect their other children have.
Siblings of special needs children with have different feelings and emotions as they grow. It is important that parents try to understand your child’s emotions. Set aside time to discuss how your “typically” developing children are feeling. By listening to your children’s feelings and emotions you are validating them and letting them know you care.
Spend Time Alone with the Siblings of Your Special Needs Child
Set aside time to do things with your “typically” developing children. Plan activities kids and let them know how important they are in your life.
Time spent alone with your “typically” developing children also gives you the opportunity to talk to them. Be honest with them about what is going on with their brother or sister in an age appropriate manner. Make sure your children know that you are available if they have questions or concerns. Keep in mind that as your children grow and develop emotionally, their questions and concerns change so it is important that you keep the communication lines open.
Encourage the Typically Developing Children to do Things Without Their Sibling with Special Needs
Another dilemma can arise if your child with special needs and his sibling are close in age. Your “typical” child may get invitations for play dates and your child with special needs may want to tag along. Balancing the needs of both of your children in this type of situation is tricky. If your child with special needs is physically and emotionally able and the other child’s parent agrees, it is okay to let your child tag along occasionally.
It is important however, for your other children to develop their own friendships and spend time with their friends without their sibling with special needs.
Limit Responsibilities for Their Sibling with Special Needs
Your “typically” developing child may be teased about his sibling with special needs. He may think that he needs to stand up for his sibling. Again, communication is imperative. Have private conversations with the siblings to find out what is going on in their lives and identify any issues you need to discuss.
Make sure the siblings don’t assume more responsibilities with regard to their special needs sibling. It is fine to ask them to help out, but you don’t want them to feel like their brother or sister is a burden. Many siblings will want to help and you can allow this. As they get older the “typically” developing siblings may want to learn more about their sibling with special needs. Make yourself available to them so they can ask you questions. If you think it is appropriate, bring a sibling with you to doctor’s appointments or school’s visits.
Siblings of special needs children with may think they need to take more responsibility for their sibling or wonder if they will become their sibling’s caretaker. Reassure your children that you have planned for the future of your special child. Encourage and support them to plan for their own future without concern about their sibling’s care needs.
There are a lot of resources on the internet for siblings of children with special needs including online support groups. Encourage your “typically” developing children to connect with other children in similar situations. It is always helpful to talk to someone who is experiencing the same situation that you are.
Balancing the needs of all your children is difficult. If respite care is available make sure to take advantage of it. You will be a better parent if you get a rest now and then!
You may find information on the links below helpful for yourself and/or your children.