Every child is special. Some may need more care and attention than others though. For most parents who are having to deal with any of their children having a disability, parenthood is often a difficult and challenging journey.
This also impacts the other children in the family. Having a sibling with special needs can be tough. There are lots of different factors which contribute to this.
The typically developing child is expected to be empathic towards their sibling, even when they do not fully understand what is going on. This can take the form of having to repress their dissatisfaction and shouldering responsibilities they are not ready for yet.
Sometimes this can affect the other sibling’s well-being, emotional and mental health.
Here are a couple of ways to support typically developing children with their special needs siblings:
Make time for each child
The first place to start is to support each of your children and make them feel equally important. You can do that by spending quality, one-on-one time with each child.
The thing is, it is pretty easy for children with a special needs sibling to feel neglected, unimportant and invisible as a result of the disproportionately large amount of time the parents spend caring and tending for the needs of their disabled sibling.
Celebrate each child’s achievement in equal measure
Usually, parents with a child who needs a lot of attention are most times so engrossed with the child that they may forget to pay enough attention to their other kids.
It is not uncommon to see parents forgetting milestones and recognising achievements. This, as you can expect makes the kid feel neglected and their achievements taken for granted.
Reinforce your commitment to each child by saying positive things to them when they each achieve something special. Try as much as possible to attend events for each child where space and time allows.
It is a juggle as a parent trying to be fair and spreading your time fairly but it is a short term sacrifice for long term gain.
Create an honest and open environment
You want your other kids to talk about their feelings openly and freely without fear of being judged.
Be honest with your kids about what is happening to their sibling. And, while at it, patiently answer any questions and ease any concerns they may have.
As is often the case, they may feel guilty that they might be the cause of their brother or sister’s condition. Other times, they may get resentful of the attention their special needs sibling is getting.
Be sure to listen to your kids and reassure them of your love. Make it a habit to constantly remind them you see them. That they matter to you too.
Seek professional help
Truth is, it is quite draining caring for a special need child. So, you might want to seek professional help both for yourself and typically developing child. NDIS providers can also provide educational resources for families.
It is a good idea to seek more support for your child if you notice something unusual in their behaviour. Perhaps, they now sleep more or less than usual. Or they overfeed or eat less. Be sure to pay attention to tell-tale signs that indicate all is not well with them.
Encourage typically developing children to connect with peers
While you are providing support for your typically developing child at home, it is also important to give them the opportunity to connect with other kids going through the same experience.
By connecting with others, they will be assured that they are not alone in their concerns, feelings, and experiences. Also, it is an excellent way for them to make friends who understand them.