Part 2 – Parenting Siblings of kids with special needs.
Hey everyone, this is part 2 of a topic that, from all your responses from part 1, is something that I am not alone in. Please remember that the goal of this blog is encourage parents who have children with disabilities. Yet, in many cases, there are other siblings in the family dynamic as well.
If you did not get to read part 1, you can click here to read it.
As you remember, this discussion began with my 8-year-old son about what is it like to be a sibling of someone who has a disability. Throughout this exchange I was fascinated, and humbled, to learn his perception about differences in how we parent the children.
One thing that became very clear, because he was very honest about it, is that Jack gets more ‘screen time’ than he does. It might seem a selfish observation, but yet to him it was a valid and ongoing frustration. In all honesty, we do hold to some pretty tight gaming time limits during the week and are not nearly as consistent with Jack because he responds to it really well…meaning that it keeps him occupied, not running away and not finding something to destroy.
If you’ve reached a point in your relationship with your typical child where you’re just not sure if something is wrong or not, the best course of action is ask. Yet, there are some instances where you should reach out for some professional help either from your church or medical professional.
These outward warning signs indicating inward struggles would include:
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Poor concentration
- separation anxiety from parents.
- frequent crying or worrying
- hurting themselves
- Low self-esteem
I have seen some of this in my household, and not until recently have I been aware enough to recognize it. A big indicator from my conversation with my son was that he is specifically struggling with interpersonal relationships and some other issues at school. I only learned this information of some emotional hurt and emptiness during our open conversation. To find out what our children are struggling with remember that it all starts with prayer and then listening when you have that conversation with your child.
So what can we do, as parents, to positively rectify this situation? It is probably good to note that once we get over the first hurdle, a second one will come and so on. Our children will always have struggles and this is not a ‘once and done’ thing. However, here are some practical steps that we can implement as parents for our typical developing children.
- Pray for them…oh yeh, I mentioned that in Part 1. But pray specifically for them.
- Make sure there is intentional QUALITY and QUANTITY of time and attention given to the sibling. Both of these elements will convey that you see them as valuable.
- Did I mention Pray? Really Pray…commit this to God. There is a verse in James 5:16, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”. We can expect God to intervene in these situations with our kids to bring awesome results and answers to our prayers.
- Teach that self-worth is found in who God says they are and to not let the surrounding circumstances (ie: have a sibling with special needs), dictate it to them. We often use this principle in relation to our child with a disability, yet the same is true for our typically developing Children. God was just as present in the mother’s womb with both children (Psalm 139:13). This ultimate reality about who we are as individuals in relation to God brings emotional security and mental stability.
- Reassurance -Notice the achievements and the struggles. Praise and correct when appropriate. The best way of doing making sure we reassure our children is to be intentional about it. From what I learned from my son, just having me notice what he is experiencing speaks volumes into his life.
There is another couple practical tips that are beneficial.
- Let the sibling have something that is theirs only. We put a child-proof latch over BJ’s door handle to his room so that Jack can not just saunter in and break BJ’s Lego etc.
- Allow them to develop their own gifts and abilities. Let them play a sport that they love, or learn an instrument. I have to remember that I cannot allow Jack’s disability to hinder the development of my other children’s gifts.
I know this is a lot of information, but BE ENCOURAGED that we are all working on this together. I am really enjoying your emails and comments on this subject. If you have any wisdom to add to this discussion please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.