Parenting A Child Whose Sibling Is Special Needs
It is so difficult parenting a child with special needs, whether those needs are physical, emotional, or both. It is heart breaking, and at times joyful. But whether heart breaking or joyful, it is beyond a full time job and takes tremendous time, energy, and resources. Every day may center around that child, seeing specialists, Doctors, teachers, etc. What about the other children in the family? The siblings are often left to themselves to be more independent, to help with care-taking to often feel that they are not as important or even as loved as the their disabled sibling. How does a parent take care of this child along with everything else that has to be done in a day? First and foremost, the parent has to give themselves permission that they cannot do it alone and not only is it ok to reach out, it is necessary. Accept the help of family, friends, and volunteers. Second, and this is vital, spend time alone with your healthy child/children so they have an opportunity to be with you without having to share you with anyone.
Do something fun with them, but also save time to talk with them about their world, their life, and how they feel about the family and their role in the family. I have met many adults over the years who felt a great deal of resentment about their childhood, feeling that they were often overlooked. Many parents report feeling guilty if they do not include their disabled child in everything. I tell them, even if all your children were healthy and without any disabilities, it would be important to spend some quality alone time with each child individually. It is also very helpful to explain to your healthy child what you are doing and why, and get their thoughts and feedback. Try not to force them to do something they may not be ready to do, such as share a disabled child with their friends. This behavior needs to come from them. When allowed some independence of thought and action and when felt heard, many healthy siblings express a great deal of love and compassion toward their disabled sibling. Treat your child’s disabilities in a matter of fact way so people around you will also take that attitude. Explain what you need to, but don’t apologize for your disabled child. Be proud of all your children. Finally, as much as you do for your children, make sure you take some quality time for yourself and your adult relationships. Live balanced and be a role model to your children of that healthy balance.
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