Siblings Are Special, Too
Seeing their parent’s daily struggles with their special needs sibling, typical siblings often feel the need to be perfect as they don’t want to add to their parent’s frustrations. Things that bother them can get buried because they don’t want to make waves, but, in doing this, they can begin to harbor feelings that as a child they may not be able to explain.
Jealousy – Children value their time with parents and when it has to be divided, jealousy can come about in any home. It can become quite challenging for parents with special needs children and some siblings don’t always voice their jealousy because they have an understanding (albeit basic) for when and why you do things with the other.
Frustration – In typical families, siblings complain about each other all the time but when you have a special needs sibling, some can struggle to express how they feel. They might be embarrassed by their sibling and/or feel guilty for even thinking negatively towards them. They can begin to think that their feelings are minimized or ignored.
Worry & Fear – It doesn’t matter if your typical child is the older or younger sibling, it can still be easy for them to not understand everything that their special needs sibling struggles with; what they can and can’t do; or even what the future holds for them. This can cause them to worry about their sibling or even fear they might lose them.
Protective – Siblings can be protective of one another, but the level it can reach, when you have a special needs brother or sister, can be overwhelming sometimes. Dealing with “the critics” can be a lifelong battle for some; wanting to defend and protect their sibling and even educate others so that their sibling and family are better understood and accepted like anyone else.
Isolated – The idea of Family and Home can look very different than typical families; maybe there are more doctor’s appointments and therapy sessions; maybe you attend support groups and advocate for your child on weekends. While your child might be used to quality time “looking differently”, it can be a very lonely feeling when your peers don’t understand your family dynamic.
Pressure – Some siblings of special needs children can put a lot of pressure on themselves to be perfect. Some might feel that they need to grow up faster to be able to help more, or maybe they think they need to push themselves harder to compensate for what their brother or sister can’t do. Pressures can come from a lot of places.
Resentment – Closely related to jealousy, resentment can build in any of us, for lots of reasons. Children thrive on having their parent’s attention and when most of it goes to their sibling, resentment can build; or perhaps you rely on them for certain tasks. Some can begin to feel like they are being asked to help too much.
Sometimes I wish parenting came with a handbook or “Easy” button. It can be tough balancing the love, attention and support you give each of your children and it’s hard to know if what your doing is even right. It’s all trial and error. As parents, we welcome and encourage our children to help us, to learn and support one another, but as our typical children fall into certain roles, do we also fall into a habit of expecting that they will assume certain roles and tasks?
Organizations like the Sibling Support Project understand that siblings are special, too, and they need an environment where they can connect with peers that might understand their family dynamic. We all need someone to talk to from time to time and SibShops for siblings might just be a resource to get the support they need. Founded in 1990, Sibling Support Project is the first national program dedicated to the life-long and ever-changing concerns of millions of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns. The Sibling Support Projects specializes in providing family-friendly workshops on sibling issues, called “SibShops”, to parents, service providers and siblings of all ages.
To learn more about SibShops visit Siblingsupport.org