How to handle your child's questions on his/her special needs sibling
Life as a sibling to a special needs child can be confusing, frustrating, and most of all, lonely. As parents, it’s your job to recognise when your other children need your love and support. Here are ways for you to provide just what they need.
Be honest about your child’s condition.
Kids are curious by nature, so they will without a doubt ask about their sibling’s condition at some point. Perhaps they will notice your special needs child walking or talking differently and they will ask why he or she does this. Don’t brush these questions off—address them head on.
Tell your kids the exact condition your special needs child has, but make sure you explain the difference between a condition and an illness. Kids may sometimes get confused and think they can “catch” whatever your special needs child has, so they may begin to distance themselves and make your special needs child feel alienated. Teach your kids this is not an illness that will go away, but a lifelong condition.
Teach kids to practice patience.
Parents know how to be patient and kind to special needs children, but kids need to be taught this. Teach your kids that it may be frustrating at times to deal with a special needs child, but love must conquer every other emotion they feel. Be a shoulder to lean on for your kids as they learn how to be patient with their special needs sibling.
When they are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, always let them vent and cry to you without judging their emotions. When kids are at their lowest, remind them just how much they love their sibling, and in the end, that’s all that matters.
Find activities both kids love.
Help your kids bond with their special needs sibling by finding activities they can both do together—like spending time in the outdoors by taking a trip to the playground. But remember, what is safe for most children may not be safe for your special needs child. Most newer playgrounds are designed to be accessible by special needs children, so make sure you visit one of these so all of your children can play safely. Keep these other safety tips in mind, too:
- Supervise all of your children on the playground at all times.
- Check the playground carefully for broken equipment, sharp edges, or unstable safety railing.
- Choose a playground with rubber mats, mulch, sand, or wood chips to prevent injuries if someone falls.
By taking your kids to a playground, you are giving them the precious opportunity to bond together and realize that despite one of them having a special need, they have a lot in common.
Although it’s important to find activities both kids love, it’s also essential you spend one-on-one time with all of your kids. It’s easy for parents to become wrapped up with caring for their special needs child, but they have to make a conscious effort to show their other children love and affection as well.
Reward kids for good grades or polite behavior with an afternoon away from the house together. Let your kid pick what he or she wants to do, and whatever it is, pretend like you could not be more excited to do it together. Build up anticipation throughout the week leading up to the big afternoon so your child knows you can’t wait to spend time together—just the two of you.
Siblings of special needs children can sometimes feel like they are not as loved, so it’s up to parents to give them warm embraces, say extra “I love you’s” and spend quality time together away from everyone else in the house.
Although it may be difficult at times, siblings of special needs children will grow up to be compassionate, giving human beings who truly appreciate all that is given to them. Put in the time now to help them grow into these well-rounded and grateful adults.