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Growing Up With A Special Needs Sibling – How parents can help create positive experiences

It is natural for siblings of kids with special needs to often face ups and downs in their approach and emotions. As a parent of both, learning to be proactive is critical for creating a positive experience in their relationship. With a little empathy, attention and parental support, you can bring out a positive perspective in life, enabling the siblings to empower their unique bond.
lifestyle parenting
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How parents can help create positive experiences

By Ayushi Pandey

Balancing the care between a special needs child and their siblings is a complex process. Siblings of special needs children have to fulfil various roles – friend, role model, supporter, caregiver, and even teacher. But while caring for a child with special needs, parents may often forget that their other child needs attention too. Even though the majority of them love their siblings beyond measure and are close to them, at times, they might feel neglected. Therefore, it is vital to understand, support, and acknowledge their struggles as well. Read further to arm yourself with important information and successful strategies to support the relationship between these siblings.

Sibling relationship  – hostility or harmony?

Children growing up together spend more time with each other, allowing them to create special relationships and strong connections. Amidst this, if one of the siblings is differently abled, it will add more complexity in both positive and negative verticals. On the positive side, studies have revealed that children who have siblings with special needs tend to show more empathy than others. They develop profound compassion and insight for the family in their early years. Sometimes, parents take healthy children for granted, indirectly pushing them to adjust their lifestyle in regards to their special needs sibling. We often forget that they too have certain needs that are seldom noticed or discussed. Research has shown that it might even affect their relationships and self-esteem if they can’t adjust to the atmosphere.

two kids playing beside glass windows
Photo by Jessica West on Pexels.com

Strategies to nurture their special bond 

Each family is unique and has its values and needs. But the dynamic between siblings will differ when one of them has special needs. Here, we have drafted some tips on how parents can support and foster a life-long relationship.

  • Embrace their emotions

Offer a safe space for supporting, acknowledging and validating the feelings of the other children. It will motivate them to open up about their feelings. Even if it’s a negative emotion like jealousy or anger, help them to overcome it and discover why and how they developed the feeling in the first place. Help them deal with challenging moments when they feel embarrassed or angry. Such awkward circumstances happen to everyone and it’s necessary to talk about it. Reassure them that their outburst of emotions is valid and is not their fault.

  • Carry out clear and honest communication

Keeping up communication with your child regarding sensitive and emotional problems is rarely simple. Nevertheless, be open and honest about their sibling’s condition and how it’s a part of their identity. This will enable them to understand certain character traits, allowing them to cope with their siblings’ behaviour. For instance, make them understand how specific actions like shouting or irritability from their siblings are not intentional and encourage them to help calm them down or reach out to you for help.

  • Involvement is important

Getting your children to take care of their siblings with special needs will help them understand their responsibilities and strengthen their bond. However, set limits to their roles through age-appropriate tasks. For instance, you can ask them to engage with their siblings during therapeutic activities. Inculcating such caring habits from a young age will build a strong bond between siblings.

  • Save space for them

Understandably, most parents spend time caring for their kids with special needs. However, ensure to spend time with your other kids one-on-one to engage with them as well. This will remind them that they are also loved no matter what, even if their sibling receives some extra attention. Always treat all kids as equally as possible. This will make it easy for them to accept and sense that their parents have a caring relationship that goes both ways.

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