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How to Support Siblings in Special Needs Families

Thursday, August 25, 2016 Leave a Comment

Guest post by Amy Williams

Parenting is tough, but it becomes even more difficult when you have a special needs child and other kids to take care of, too. But parents aren’t the only ones who have face challenges with a special needs child in the family. Siblings of special needs children often go through life feeling left out since parents often don’t give them as much attention as they need. Every child needs support in your family, not just your special needs child.

To support your other children, follow these tips:

Don’t let them act out.
When siblings don’t get enough attention from their parents, they begin to act up and misbehave. Kids who are desperate for attention don’t care whether the focus is on them for positive or negative reasons, so they will go to extremes to get you to notice them. If this happens in your house, make sure you still punish them, even if you know the reason why they are acting out. Without a punishment, kids will know this is the way to get your attention in the future, so the behavior will only get worse.

Be honest.
Kids are bound to have questions about why their sibling acts or talks a certain way. When they come to you with these questions, it’s important to be upfront and honest with them. Talk to your kids about what health condition your special needs child has, but make sure you explain to them this is not an illness they can catch like the common cold. If you don’t make this clear, they could begin to alienate their sibling.

Celebrate their accomplishments.
Siblings of special needs children love receiving praise after they have done something positive, so make sure you celebrate every achievement, no matter how small. Did your children clean their rooms without you having to nag them? Or did one of your children bring home a stellar grade on his or her math exam? Make a big deal out of these accomplishments to make your other children feel special and rewarded.

Give each child one-on-one time.
It can be hard to spend alone time with each child, but it’s necessary. Try to plan to spend a Saturday afternoon with your other child doing something he or she really loves. If carving out this much time is nearly impossible, don’t worry. Even spending ten to fifteen minutes alone with each child before bed is helpful. Read a book or start working on a puzzle together so you can catch up with each other and bond in these quiet moments. Spending this time together shows your other children you love them just the same as your special needs child, even if they don’t always feel that you do.

Above all else, remember to look at the positives together. Children who have grown up with special needs siblings tend to be more compassionate, generous adults. These kids learn how to tolerate people who are different at an early age, and they take this accepting nature with them into adulthood. It may be difficult now to raise all of your kids at once, but it’s definitely worth it.

Amy Williams is a freelance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety.