This is a guest post written by Annabelle Fee. Annabelle is part of the Content and Community team at SmileTutor, sharing valuable content to their own community and beyond.
How to Support Siblings In Families with a Special Needs Child
Special needs refers to kids who require assistance for their psychological, mental, or medical disabilities. These disabilities arise from conditions, such as Autism, Down Syndrome, and Dyslexia. Others are blindness, Cystic Fibrosis, and ADHD. Parents of special needs children have varying experiences depending on their child’s condition.
For example, the parents of ADHD children contend with easily distracted children. Additionally, they have to deal with kids who have difficulty remembering things or following instructions. Consequently, their approach to their children’s needs would be different from those who have kids with medical conditions, such as Cystic Fibrosis.
It is worth noting that the siblings of kids with special needs face challenges as well. For example, embarrassment may overwhelm them when their sibling utters inappropriate comments. The special needs child may talk nonstop, making the other children feel left out of the family conversation. Fortunately, you can support them in the following ways.
1. Have One-On-One Conversations with Each Child
Children process the same struggles differently. For example, having a special needs sibling might evoke a sense of hopelessness, devastating one child while inspiring another. You need to tackle these different emotions among your kids at an individual level. Doing so helps you delve into them sufficiently, so that you purge negative thoughts in your children while encouraging positive ones.
One-on-one conversations help in other ways. For example, kids with an ADHD sibling would feel valued and appreciated. They would notice that you recognize them individually, even though one of their siblings seeks attention consistently. Moreover, these conversations provide you with an opportunity to ask about other struggles they are facing in their life, such as bullies in school.
2. Hold Open Discussions with the Entire Family
Explain the ‘special need’ to the entire family. For example, tell them what ADHD is if their sibling has it. They will absorb this information as a group. Some of them will react with shock. Others will wait for additional clarifications. More importantly, those who understood what you said would explain it to those who did not.
Similarly, the emotionally strong ones would comfort the ones overwhelmed by this news. In essence, you would have created a small support group within the walls of your home. Another benefit of open discussions is that they inspire transparency and courage in your children. Kids with special needs’ siblings require these traits, so that they can respond to queries about their sibling.
3. Treat Your Children Equally
Preferential treatment leads to resentment among children, because they would feel as though you love one child more than you do the others. These feelings would give rise to jealousy in some cases and low self-esteem in others. It is worth noting that imitation is likely if your special needs child has ADHD and you offer him preferential treatment.
More specifically, the other kids would think that nagging behavior leads to constant attention from you, so they would imitate this behavior. Avoid these scenarios by treating your children equally. For example, reprimand them for making mistakes. Do not give your ADHD child a pass. However, taking account of his special needs is critical, but it is not an excuse for outlandish behavior.
Kids with special needs require the utmost care. However, their siblings require a support system as well. You can support them by holding one-on-one conversations with them in addition to convening family discussions. Treating your children as equals would help as well. Finally, encourage fun-based family events, such as picnics to ease any possible tensions in your home.