Special Needs and Siblings

Fiona Brown
Oregon Blog
Earth Monkey Moms

Special Needs and Siblings

This parenting gig can be hard work. Even when things are running smoothly, when everyone is well, when you’ve cleared the latest set of hurdles, parenting is still hard hard work. Totally worth it, hugely rewarding and the bonuses are out of this world……..but still, hard work.

Last week I received this question from a reader:

I have three children and my two youngest have special needs and so they require a lot of extra time. The time is in doctors appointments spent in Portland, speech therapy appointments, special classes, etc. My oldest is really starting to have a hard time with it. He refuses to accommodate his siblings’ needs. I know this is pretty common among siblings when one has a special need, but I am just not sure how to go about it so that he still respects his siblings and feels special, too. Any suggestions? – C

Isn’t that a good question? I know that Miz C is certainly not alone in this situation. I could have gone to the library and found myself some books that talk about this whole topic, I could have stalked chat rooms and online forums etc, instead I asked a group of Moms who I love and respect and ‘are in the trenches’ as I write…..these Moms are parenting children who fall into the normal categories of…….everything….alongside parenting children who fall outside of the ranges of ‘normal’…..whatever that is…..I asked these Moms how they balance their time with their kids, when the special needs they are dealing with take up a lot of time, and I asked for any advice they could pass on to Miz C. They have some gems to offer:

Heather says:

* Balance IS tough.
* For the most part she includes both her children in the therapy sessions, doctors appointments etc that they have to attend. Therapy becomes a thing that includes both children, and a good doctor will ask for input from the sibling as well as the patient. (This must really foster a ‘team’ spirit, a ‘we’re in this together’ mentality.
* We do set aside time with each child, so they each get special attention.
* We have had some frank discussions with our children, where we have discussed their individual gifts and challenges. We talk about helping each other with their challenges and appreciating their gifts, instead of being jealous. We talk about how unique God makes all of us and how boring or difficult life would be if we were all the same with the same abilities.
* It is worthwhile to identify something that can be unique to each child and make that a special thing for them.
PJ says:
* Take up all offers of help that may come from family, friends, or church members and use that time to spend one on one with your kids. You’re not using and abusing those relationships, especially when they are offering to help. It is called the ‘body of Christ’ for a reason. 🙂

Vanessa says:
* Set up networks around you, networks of people that can help. Not just physical hands to help – but emotional help for you. There are a lot of support groups on Facebook for example, where you can chat with parents who are facing similar issues, gain ideas from them and know you are not alone.

My own dime’s worth:
Life is busy, yeah? Miz C has three kids and who knows what else on her plate……she could well be having heart palpitations after reading about how good an idea it would be for her to have one on one time with her oldest. Here’s what I would say to her….instead of having this as just another thing to put on the ‘to do’ list, another demand on your life, I’d look at how you could do this naturally, how you could incorporate this into your life as it exists already. It may just come down to being more intentional with those snuck moments of one on one time you already have….time together in the car, moments when you’re walking that child to somewhere, and you’re without your other two kids. Maybe since this is your eldest child, he could have a slightly later bedtime to your others? I don’t think it is about quantity, it is about quality.

As far as having any ideas to encourage your eldest to fully accommodate his siblings’ needs….maybe you could enforce some non-negotiables: tell him that between the hours of x and z, then y behavior is expected from him. Stress that the happiness of your family unit is dependant on his participation during these times, and if it doesn’t happen then there will be consequences. Now if he chooses to not show y behavior outside of those pre-negotiated times, then that is his choice – not ideal – but you’re giving him a little freedom and not having to be the bad cop all day long.

And in the meantime……pray pray pray and praise praise praise the desired behavior when you see it.

And look back and see how far you have come as family, celebrate the victories and milestones reached.

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