There are at least two things that differ in the ways adults and siblings (brothers and sisters) react to a child with a disability:
- The first is that children often lack information about the child’s disability, possibly because they are too young and inexperienced to understand the problem. They may have many unrealistic fears, like it is contagious or that maybe even they (the sibling) caused it, or that surely their disabled sibling could change if they really wanted to.
- Secondly, when they are experiencing negative feelings, they’ll often “act out” or behave badly to get attention. They have to learn more socially acceptable ways to deal with negative feelings.
Helping Children Cope
- Give them room to be kids! A balance is needed so siblings have “their own life” and have time to be with friends and do the things they are interested in.
- Talk and Listen. Take individual time to talk with them, keep communication open, share your personal feelings with them, and be honest
- Give Information. Explain the disability to your children, answer their questions honestly, and allow them to do their own learning about their siblings disability.
- Involve Them. Plan quality time with each of your children, do something special just for them, and give them specific responsibilities or tasks to help them feel involved in the care of their sibling.
Connect Them with Siblings from Other Families
- If possible, try to introduce your children to others who have a sibling with special needs. They may find that other children share their feelings.
- Organize or find a sibling group in your community where your other children will have an opportunity to talk with others.
The Internet’s first and largest online community for adult brothers and sisters of people with disabilities. SibNet is also a remarkably warm, thoughtful and informative community where young adult and adult brothers and sisters from around the world share information and discuss issues of common interest. SibNet can be most easily accessed through facebook.
From the Center for Parent Information & Resources: Brothers and sisters are playmates first; as they mature, they take on new roles with each other. Over the years, they may be many things to each other — teacher, friend, companion, follower, protector, enemy, competitor, confidant, role model. This relationship can be powerfully affected by a sibling’s disability or chronic illness.
These articles suggest ways to support siblings of children with disabilities.