As special needs children most often get more than their
â€śshareâ€ť of their parentâ€™s attention, siblings of special needs kids also have
their own special needs. Licensed
marriage and family therapist Rachel Bernstein gives parents some tips for
caring for siblings of special needs children.
Bernstein says, â€śParents will sometimes feel a great amount
of stress and guilt for the other sibling when they feel like there just isnâ€™t
enough time in the day to listen to the brother or the sister of the child with
special needs or to take them to the different after school projects because
they need to take the special needs to different specialists, etc.â€ť
It is true that siblings of special needs children often
feel angry at their sibling or jealous of the attention. Children might also become worried or
scared for their special needs sibling, or there might be feelings of
resentment or embarrassment.
Additionally, some children might feel guilty that they can do things
their siblings cannot.
Finding a licensed marriage and family therapist might be a
great tool to help your children.
These therapists can help you work on your marriage, and they also have
the experience to work with individuals within your family, including your
children. Bernstein says, â€śbeing
able to see a therapist who has a human instinct and someone who can really be
accepting of the fact that this is a challenge and itâ€™s not what you expectedâ€ť
is an important factor.
Bernstein comments that trained marriage and family
therapists â€śunderstands the challenges of having someone who you love who you
might not be able to take care of in the way that you want toâ€ť and understands
the specificities of having a sibling of a special needs child, who youâ€™re not
able to give as much attention to.
Effective marriage and family therapists will also give you â€śsome tools
to help streamline things within the family system and within your own life, so
that you feel like a much more effective parent.â€ť
In addition to utilizing tools for effective parenting, also
encourage your childrenâ€™s use of each other as a resource. â€śFor those siblings to be able to need
each other is a great resource,â€ť says Bernstein.
Also utilize resources for your child without special
needs. For example, just because a
special needs child cannot attend summer camp does not mean you should deny his
sibling the opportunity. Plan
ahead and find other activities in which your child can participate. Find resources within your community as
well -- donâ€™t be afraid to ask for help, and let family and friends help. If you need to take your special needs child
to the doctor, ask another parent to take his sibling to soccer practice.
For parents with limited resources within the community,
turn to the Internet for blogs and other websites as a source of information
and support. Bernstein says, â€śThat
can be very calming and reassuring, and it can also be a great source of
comfort and learning because you hear from other parents -- what theyâ€™ve tried,
what has worked for them, and you can cultivate a whole system of parental
education through that kind of communication, and I think thatâ€™s invaluable.â€ť
more information about Rachel Bernstein or to find a licensed MFT in
California, visit Counseling