We all know that caring for a child with disability can be challenging and energy-consuming, but it’s also important that the unique needs of your other children are not overlooked. Siblings of a child with special needs may actually share many or your same challenges and concerns. Here are 7 ways to help you encourage and support them:
1. Acknowledge that as a sibling of a child with special needs, their experiences are unique. Your typical child has a right to their own life. They most likely have their own dreams, plans for the future, likes, and dislikes. Foster their talents and interests by providing opportunities to engage in sports, the arts, music, or other activities.
2. Acknowledge your child’s concerns. It’s important that you acknowledge the emotions and concerns that your child may be experiencing. Remind them that you are there for them. Let them know that you want to talk over issues and help.
3. Dedicate time to your child. Having a child with special needs can require a lot of time and resources. Remember to set time aside to spend with your other children, one-on-one and as a family. They need to know that they are valued through your actions, not just your words.
4. Provide opportunities to meet peers and make friends. Allow your child the opportunity to make friends with other siblings of special needs kids in addition to their existing friend groups. Nonprofits and local organizations host summer camps, family events, and programs for siblings that may be helpful to your child.
5. Keep siblings informed about disability needs. With time, the needs of your child with disability may change. It’s important that their siblings understand the needs, how they can help, and what they can expect for the future. In some cases, you may wish to seek professional help in dialoguing with your family, especially if your child has a life-threatening or terminal illness.
6. Address any negative feelings. Emphasize that no one is to blame for an illness or disability. Encourage siblings to see similarities, rather than differences. Don’t assume the negative feelings will pass with time, age, or with greater familiarity with the disability. Make sure to check in regularly to see if the feelings are improving, worsening, or changing.
7. Reduce stress at home. Find ways to improve your marriage if it’s adding stress in the home. Try to keep a sense of humor, even when you are under pressure. Allow siblings some distance if needed, such as a weekend at their grandparent’s house or quiet time in their bedroom.
Have you discovered other ways that help you provide support to siblings of a child with disability?
Originally posted on Joni and Friends