Tips To Help The Sibling Of A Special Needs Child

If you are raising a child with special needs, you have unique challenges on top of raising your other little ones such as doctor’s appointments, dietary restrictions, and potential behavior therapy.

And if you have other children in the mix, it can add a whole other layer of complexity to your already frazzled schedule.

Sadly, siblings often are forced to take a “backseat” to the child with special needs, but there are things you can do to avoid this.

It might not be easy, but here are some tips to help make your other child feel just as special and loved!

1. Schedule 1:1 Time: One thing children love more than anything is spending undivided time with their moms!

But raising a child with special needs requires so much focus, this can seem impossible to devote an entire afternoon solely to your other child.

Especially since finding a babysitter can be tough… you can’t exactly trust the 13-year old girl down the street to take care of a child with high medical needs.

However, think about organizing a day where your child with special needs can stay home with dad or a trusted family member and then take your other child out for some quality 1:1 time!

Even an afternoon walk in the park with ice cream cones or something simple is a great way to create an exciting memory.

Or even an afternoon at home curled on the couch watching a movie together.

The main thing is your other child knows how loved they are.

2. Protect Their Childhood: Sometimes the other siblings get way too much responsibility dumped on them at a young age.

Since you are busy handling all the deep care raising a child with special needs entails, at first it may make sense to “encourage independence” in your other child.

And while there is nothing wrong with teaching your child responsibility and independence – remember they are still a child.

Motherly stated this important reminder on balancing adult responsibilities:

“Depending on the family, siblings may not be asked to take on responsibilities related to the family functions, but they may be required to care for themselves independently. This premature independence may cause the child to believe that they need to behave like an adult. Parenting a child with a disability is not an easy task, and it is natural to need extra support to complete day-to-day tasks. Making sure that siblings’ jobs and responsibilities are age-appropriate helps ensure that they are not overburdened by tasks that are beyond their developmental level.”

 If necessary, consider enlisting in-home care from a skilled nurse or child worker or see if friends and family can help run basic errands or make dinner if you are completely overwhelmed.

The last thing you want to do is rob your other child’s innocence by forcing them into the “little parent” role!

3. Give Them A Network: Check with your church or local community and establish a network with other families raising children with special needs.

This holistic approach can help the entire family – you’ll find support from other moms in the special needs community, your child with special needs may establish friendships, and your other child will meet other peers who may be experiencing the same struggles and challenges they are!

You can even help organize playdates for your other children.  This is so important as children will learn they are not alone and someone else shares in their circumstances!

4. Talk About It: Encourage your child to talk to you about their frustrations or fears.

It may be emotionally traumatizing to watch their baby brother have a seizure and they might not understand what is happening.

But by keeping an open dialogue and explaining (at age appropriate terms) the unique challenges of the sibling with special needs, this can help evade fear.

And often it is the big/brother or sister who ends up being most protective of their sibling with special needs!

Moms, hats off to you for the unique challenge of finding a way to make your family thrive balancing unique circumstances in your home.

We know children with special needs are just like any other child, but there are different challenges a mom raising a child with special needs may face.

And have faith you are doing a good job! A child knows the love of a mother.

Try these tips to help ease the burden of the sibling of a special needs child who often feels neglected.

And remember to take time to rest yourself!

Are you a mom of a child with special needs or do you know other moms who are?  What do you think are some practical ways to show love and care to typical siblings?

Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

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