BY MARIA LUISA SALCINES
Raising a special needs child can be overwhelming, and parents may unintentionally overlook the needs of their other children.
Siblings love their special needs brother or sister, but they may also resent the amount of time their parents spend taking care of him or her, or be embarrassed.
Parents need to take the feelings of all of their children into account and listen to them. Avoid judging your typical developing children for feeling mad or sad. By discussing their feelings, they will begin to take steps toward coping with the family’s situation.
Living with a special needs sibling often forces kids to grow up quicker. Parents expect them to help more by feeding or helping their sibling get dressed. Sometimes they see and do things that most children don’t have to experience at their age.
There is nothing wrong with asking your children to help out, but it is important that this is not all they remember about their childhood.
Children with special needs siblings sometimes feel they need to be perfect, because they see how hard their parents work taking care of their sibling. Many feel they need to solve their own problems or that they cannot make mistakes in order not to burden their parents.
They may feel guilty about needing their parents when they compare the struggles of their special needs sibling.
This can lead to stress, feelings of inadequacy and resentment.
Parents play a very important role in handling the issues that arise when raising a special needs child. Spending time with your typically developing child, being conscious of the things you ask them to do and working at creating an environment where all needs are met is exhausting, but necessary.
Often times one parent will stay home to care for their special needs child while the other parent tends to the other children. It is important that parents switch roles often, so that they each spend quality time with all of their children.
It is also important that typical developing children understand the condition of their sibling. They need to learn how to handle questions that may arise from their friends. It’s not easy for a child to explain what is wrong with their sibling, but by discussing it, you can help your child feel more comfortable.
Love is the driving force behind a family with a special needs child. Children who grow up with a special needs sibling develop a different perspective on life. They learn compassion, empathy and they understand the power of family unity.
Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer and certified parent educator with The International Network for Children and Families in Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom. Follow her on Twitter @PowerOfFamily or on Instagram @mlsalcines. You can also contact her on her blog FamilyLifeandFindingHappy.com.