5 Tips for Nurturing Siblings of Children with Disabilities

12 October 2017

Photo by Ewa Pinkonhead on Unsplash

You have a child with a physical or mental disability and it seems all of your time goes into dealing with that one child.
But what if you have other children? Perhaps one of them caught you off guard when they suddenly acted out. Or you became conscious of the fact that you can't remember when you had a heart-to-heart with any of your other children.
And then it hits you: because your other children don't demand as much constant attention, you haven't given them the nurturing they require. An older sibling may have taken on the parenting role and your children may be raising themselves.
Now the guilt streams in. How could you have let this happen?
Still, you only have so many hours in the day and your disabled child needs a lot of care. What can you do to make sure your other children aren't left on their own?
Follow these five tips to pull the family together and make sure no one is left behind.
1. Use the Resources Available to You
Did you know you don't have to go it alone? There are many resources to help when you have a child with physical or mental disabilities. For example, if your child is on the autism spectrum and you live in Dubai, visit Sanjay Shah's newly opened Autism Rocks Support Centre. If you live in the U.K., check out the government resourced Help for a Disabled Child website.
Also in the U.K. is the Council for Disabled Children website for resources and services. Chances are you'll find support to relieve some of the pressures and stress you experience and leave more time for your disabled child's siblings.
2. Understand Sibling Stress
Psychologist Barbara Cain conducted a series of in-depth interviews with 35 siblings of children with autism and published her findings in 2012. Children spoke of unsettling and frightening behaviour on the part of the affected sibling but nearly every interviewee also spoke of the fierce devotion they had.
Of course, they also expressed resentment that the autistic child seemed to get all or most of the attention. If the interviewee had no siblings other than the autistic child, they expressed sadness that their sibling relationship was not a typical one.
Other sources of sibling stress include feelings of embarrassment around peers, being bullied, concern over their parents' worries and stress levels and concern about their involvement as caregivers as they grow up.
3. Let Them Talk 
As a parent, it's your job to open the doors of communication. Ask your children to describe their feelings and talk about their worries. Listen without judgement. If it's been awhile since you've talked to them, you may hear some surprisingly angry words. Let your children vent, cry and yell —whatever they need to do. Listen and learn.
4. Encourage a Sibling Relationship
If your children have had difficulty forming any kind of sibling relationship with their affected brother or sister, teach them ways to interact with a disabled child. For example, siblings might learn how to give simple instructions when needed, how to catch their brother or sister's attention and methods to communicate. Give them some way to relate to the disabled child,  and help them form a positive relationship and integrate the family so that no one is seen as separate.
5. Give Them Their Own Special Time
Your disabled child gets a lot of attention, but your other children need their own special times as well. Schedule some kind of activity or time period each week for your other children. It's probably not possible to give each child an equal amount of time and that's OK. Still, every child needs special time with Mum and Dad. The difficulties siblings of disabled children face are real and can lead to behaviour and relationship issues. With support, it's possible to give siblings the nurturing they need as well as care for your disabled child.
This is a collaborative post.


9 comments:

  1. It's so important, a really useful post :) I totally agree that talking is a major factor in supporting them & giving them special time when you can :) x

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  2. Such a lovely post with wonderful positive actions to take.

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  3. Lovely post and I think it's so important to do a few of these!

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  4. It is so important not to forget other children when you feel all your time goes to the one that needs the most additional support.

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  5. It must be so hard as a parent to split your time when you have one child who needs you more than the others.

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  6. I can really relate to this, one of my children needs way more attention than the others and it can be easy to overlook the others at times.

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  7. Lovely post Hun. Love the positivity in his :)

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  8. Letting them talk makes a lot of difference. As parent's, it's vital that we make our children feel that we listen to them.

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  9. Great positive actions to take and guidance. Communication is really import with children x

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