How to Support Your Child as a Sibling of Special Needs Children | Salma Safira Sukma from BehaviorPALS Center| Kinderkloud

How to Support Your Child as a Sibling of Special Needs Children

siblings

Having a sibling with a disability can cause complicated feelings for your other children. Several studies have found that siblings of special needs children might be fighting for parental attention and have negative thoughts or feelings such as anger and embarrassment towards their sibling. However, at the same time they also feel sorry, guilty, and are concerned about their sibling’s well-being. There are also feelings of pride and happiness when their special needs sibling made a positive progress such as when they started to talk. Furthermore, some children who have a sibling with special needs also become a bullying target but they are also trying to protect their sibling from bullying.

Therefore, it is very important to give as much attention and support to your typically developing children as a sibling of children with disabilities. Make sure they know that they are equally important to you as your special needs child and that you care about what they have been going through. Below are several ways you can do to make them feel supported:

1. Tell them that it’s OK to have mixed feelings about their special needs sibling

It is important to let them know that their feelings are valid and normal. Let them share their feelings and listen to them without judgment. It is also good to share your own feelings about your special needs child to them. This will show them that they don’t have to deal with their emotions by themselves and that they can ask for help.

2. Shared problem solving

Solving problems together is good to help your typically developing children work with difficult experiences and emotions. Try to pay more attention to their emotions and tell them that it’s OK to have them. For example, when they seem to be annoyed by something that their special needs sibling does but they don’t say anything or admit that they are annoyed, you can initiate a discussion and work on the issue together. However, it’s also important to give them some time to calm down and help them to understand their own emotions. If there are problems that might be too concerning relating to your child, you can always ask for professional help.

3. Spend time together

When you have a child with a disability, you might have to give them extra care and services that can affect how you spend time with your other children. Therefore, you can set a special time with your other children so they know that they are equally important to you and your family. This will also be a good opportunity for you to catch-up and talk about what they have been up to. It is important to note that quality time can be anytime and anywhere as long as you give your full attention to them. It can be as simple as talking in the car or sharing a joke and laughing together.

4. Encourage siblings connections

Your typically developing children might have trouble connecting with their special needs sibling as they might have a communication barrier and challenging behavior. This can cause difficulty for your children to understand each other which will affect their relationships. Therefore, you can explain the condition of your special needs child to your other children and give examples on how to best approach them. You can also set a quality time for all of your children by playing games, going to the park, or initiating activities where everyone can have fun.

5. Help them to understand their sibling’s disability

Your children might have different understandings about disability based on their age and developmental stage. They may ask you some questions and it is important that you answer them in a way that they can understand but also as honestly and realistically as possible. If possible and appropriate, you can involve your typically developing children in their sibling’s therapy activities to increase their knowledge about their sibling’s disability. 

6. Finding the right support for your child

Other than you and your family, support can also be obtained from other people. Being able to socialize with other people can increase your child’s sense of belonging and make them feel less alone, such as playing or spending time with a friend who also has a sibling with a disability. Peer support group for siblings of children with disabilities is also available to help your child make friends and get insights regarding their situation. However, if you notice some signs of mental health problems in your child, such as sleeping or eating disorders, being significantly more irritable or aggressive toward their sibling, showing less interest in the activities they once enjoyed, visibly trying too hard to please others, or having school problems, then you can always find professional support for them.

 

References:

Siblings of children with disability: How to support them. (2021, December 7). Raising Children Network Australia. Retrieved September 9, 2022 from https://raisingchildren.net.au/disability/family-life/siblings/supporting-siblings

Martirosyan, A. (2013). Sibling relationships in families with a child with special needs: A case study of a Norwegian family with a child with down syndrome and her three siblings. Oslo, Norway: University of Oslo. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/30827823.pdf

 

By: Salma Safira Sukma Ikhsani, S.Psi. from BehaviorPALS Center

supporting, children, special need, sibling

Special Needs / Berkebutuhan Khusus / Parenting / Pola Asuh / Family / Keluarga / How to Support Your Child as a Sibling of Special Needs Children

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