As a parent of children with special needs and without special needs, sometimes I just had to wonder as to if they would have any sort of relationship. Here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to encouraging a loving relationship with a special needs sibling.
When Squeaker was born, it was like a whole new world of parenting had just opened up.
Of course, it would weigh at the back of my mind, that maybe she would also be on the spectrum. I knew that it was entirely possible so I tried not to get too ahead of myself. But, as she continued to grow and develop on a typical level; my worries ceded. Now, however, I knew that I was going to be faced with another set of challenges. Not just by parenting in general, but also by encouraging a loving relationship with a special needs sibling. For Sweet B, I also realized there might be more of a challenge.
So instead, I started with Squeaker- who tries so incredibly hard to have a relationship with her older sister.
5 Ways to Encourage a Loving Relationship with a Special Needs Sibling
Parenting a special needs child is a great privilege, and also a great responsibility. One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to help facilitate a relationship between your child with his (or her) special needs sibling. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Recognizing Special Abilities
All abilities are not exactly the same. We tend to think of abilities as something that makes us incredibly popular or well-known, but there are many abilities that are more low-key. Teach your child to recognize these less glamorous abilities in his special needs sibling. For example, perhaps your special needs child has an ability to make others smile.
Point this out and remind your other child often.
Involve Your Child in His Sibling’s Care
Find small ways for your child to care for his special needs sibling. There are many little things he can do, whether it be helping his sibling put toothpaste on their toothbrush or helping out with toys that his special needs sibling struggles to complete. Be careful not to overwork your child though, or he will begin to resent his sibling and feel like he is being used to help too much.
Don’t Neglect Your Children Who Aren’t Special Needs
One common complaint of children who have a special needs sibling is that their parents gave all their time and attention to the child who needed extra help. Although it might simply be unavoidable that your special needs child requires more of your time, make every effort to carve out extra time in your schedule to include the others.
This way, your children will see you making that effort and appreciate that you are doing what you can to keep things as fair as possible.
Recognize What Your Child Does For His Special Needs Sibling
When your child has gone out of his way to help his special needs sibling, be sure to recognize him for it. Don’t take advantage of his kindness and don’t manipulate him to do more to help by giving an excess of compliments, but definitely take the time to notice. Every once in a while, go beyond a verbal “thank you” by giving your child a card or a special treat like a special date together at his favorite park or restaurant.
Connect with Other Children Who Have Special Needs Siblings
Just as parents benefit from a support group, so do kids! One thing that is important for any child with a special needs sibling is to connect with other kids who are in the same family situation. There are groups where both parents and siblings of special needs kids can find support. Find these connections and utilize them.
Books for non-special needs children:
- Just Because
- Everybody is Different
- Views from Our Shoes
- My Brother is Autistic
- Little Big Sister
- Special Brothers and Sisters
Books for parents:
Being a parent of a special needs child is no easy road, but the rewards are unlimited. One of the greatest things to experience is to see your other children loving and appreciating that child. By helping your child to view the special and unseen qualities of his sibling, you are contributing to this effect.
One of the most important things to keep in mind is this: do not compare your children. This should go without saying and should apply to parenting in general. But this is especially true when you have children with and without special needs.
This post is a part of a 12 month series about parenting children with special needs. Be sure to check out more posts on this month’s topic which is all about siblings.
Reactive Attachment Disorder and Sibling Relations | Every Star is Different
When Being a Special Needs Sibling is too Hard | Life Over C’s
5 Things All Siblings of Special Needs Kids Need | The Chaos and The Clutter
The Shadow World of Special Needs Sibling | 3 Dinosaurs