How to Better Support Siblings in Special Needs Families
Siblings are lifelong friends. They are usually in the lives of their brothers and sisters much longer than anyone else. While children with special needs may require a little more attention and support, it is just as important for their siblings to feel supported, included, and loved. By not acknowledging their struggles with support, they may grow up with negative feelings towards their brother or sister.
Here are 6 ways to better support siblings of special needs children and prevent feelings of jealousy and resentment among siblings.
1. Be open with everyone.
Don’t try to shield siblings from the situation. Be open and clearly communicating the situation so that they fully understand what is happening to their brother or sister. Often times, siblings may feel guilty or that they aren’t as important as their sibling. In order to prevent these negative feelings, talking openly and acknowledging their emotions will help to foster positivity towards the situation. Furthermore, including them in the decision-making can create the feeling of being a part of the team, rather than an outsider.
2. Spread the sunshine.
Try to remember to spread the support to siblings. It is common for siblings of special needs children to feel that they are not getting as much time, encouragement or support from you. And, because of this, they may feel that their achievements are being taken for granted and, ultimately, they may lash out against you. That’s why it is important that, as a parent, you provide the same level of support and positive reinforcement to siblings, especially for their achievements.
3. Treat them the same.
Treat every child the same. As a parent with a special needs child, sheltering him or her more than you do your other children is a common mistake. It creates feelings of jealousy and resentment among siblings. To prevent these feelings, set similar expectations for all your children. Teach all your kids to do and shoulder the same chores and responsibilities to nurture independence and cooperation. In addition, allowing typical sibling conflicts unfold, instead of attempting to break up the fight, can go a long way in helping your children develop social skills.
4. Set one-on-one time for each child.
Carve out some one-on-one time for each child during the weeks. Siblings may often feel deprived of attention because of their special needs sibling. By setting aside a designated time for each sibling, you will be reminding them that you are always there for them and that they are just as important to you. Although it can be challenging to fit in your schedule, an activity as small and simple as getting ice cream, going to a movie, or just shopping at the mall can go a long way. As long as the time spent is meaningful and consistent, you will be helping your children feel cherished and loved.
5. Find family bonding activities.
Find ways the entire family can bond together and laugh. Family fun provides an opportunity to bring the family closer together. It reinforces the feeling of family unity, the feeling that the family is a team and that everyone is in this together. Whether your family goes on a hike trail or to We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym, just make sure the activity is exciting for and inclusive of everyone. Also, be sure to take all of your children’s suggestions into consideration when deciding where to go.
6. Create a wide support system.
Create a support system outside of your family. Although asking your other children to help out is perfectly fine, it is important to not put all the burden on them. If you put all the pressure on them to help out, they may feel restricted and resent their brother or sister for holding them back. Learn to spread the responsibility to teachers, other family members, or We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym specialized staff to give your other kids the chance to pursue their own interests and hobbies.
Supporting siblings of special needs children is important for cultivating healthy and positive relationships within your family. One way you can support your other children is to look for a fun bonding activity that is enjoyable to everyone in your family, like We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym. We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym was created by Dina Kimmel, the CEO and Founder of We Rock the Spectrum. As a parent to a child with special needs and one who is neurotypical, Dina Kimmel founded the franchise with the purpose of creating a space where both her children could play together, “a Place Where You Never Have to Say I’m Sorry”™. Dina also created the non-profit My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation. This foundation was inspired by her daughter and provides inclusive environments for special needs children and their siblings to play together. For a space where all your children can play and create bonding experiences together, head to our sensory gym today!