Parents often talk to us about the importance of siblings and the difficulties that can arise for the siblings of a disabled child. These challenges rarely stop the relationship siblings have with their disabled brother or sister being one of the most important in their lives.
Below we highlight some of the issues that may crop up for siblings of a disabled child and give tips to respond to them.
Limited time and attention from parents
- Every so often put the needs of siblings first and let them choose what to do.
- Decide on certain times you'll dedicate to siblings individually, for example bedtime or day trips once a month.
- Try to find activities that the family can enjoy together, but also other activities to enjoy seperately so each child has something special.
- Try to arrange short term care so you can attend important events with siblings, like sports day.
- Sometimes take your disabled child along to their sibling's event: siblings supporting each other works both wys.
Confusion about their sibling's disability
- Learn to recognise behaviour that expresses anger or frustration at their disabled sibling.
- Talk to your children about disability so they know that no one is to blame for their brother or sister's difficulties.
- Encourage them to see the similarities they have with their sibling. Draw pictures of each family member and look at their strengths and weaknesses.
- Meet other families who have a disabled child so your other children see that disability is an everyday part of life and not unique to their family.
Worry about bringing friends home
- Talk with your child about how they might explain their brother or sister's disability to a friend.
- Encourage but don't expect siblings to always include the disabled child in their play or activities.
- Let them retreat to their bedroom, and when they're older you can think about letting lock the door.
- Acknowledge siblings' negative feelings about their brother or sister and talk about the feelings of guilt they may feel. Explain that everyone gets angry with other family members sometimes.
Stressful situations at home
- Encourage siblings to develop their own social lives.
- Some siblings find it helpful to meet other young carers to share difficult emotions in a supportive environment. There are young carers support organisations across the UK.
- Some siblings may prefer to talk to someone outside of the family. Your GP may be able to recommend a suitable counsellor, or you can visit the Counselling Directory website.
Sibling tips from other parents
We asked some parents what advice they'd pass onto others, and this is what they said.
- Don't get down about sibling troubles - your children can gain and learn from difficult experiences.
- Join a parent support group - they really help.
- Tell the child's school if they're having trouble adapting to having a disabled sibling.
- Keep the siblings informed about their brother or sister's disability.
- Allow children to speak their mind, even if you're not always comfortable with what they say.
- Don't put pressure on your non-disabled children - it might take them time to fully understand the situation.