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Supporting siblings

Parents often talk to us about the importance of siblings and the difficulties that can arise for the siblings of a disabled child. Feeling jealous at getting less attention from parents, embarrassed about their brother or sister’s behaviour or resentful because family outings are limited – all are issues we’ve heard from parents.

These challenges rarely stop the relationship siblings have with their disabled brother or sister being one of the most important in their lives. We hope our advice helps you deal with worries and difficulties that may arise along the way.

Tips for supporting siblings

Below we highlight some of the issues that may crop up for siblings of a disabled child and give tips to respond to them.
Limited time and attention from parents

  • Every so often put the needs of siblings first and let them choose what to do.
  • Try to arrange short term care so you can attend important events with siblings, like sports day.
  • Decide on certain times you’ll dedicate to siblings, for example, bedtime or day trips once a month.

Confusion about their sibling’s disability

  • Talk to your children about disability so they know that no one is to blame for their brother or sister’s difficulties.
  • Encourage them not to focus on their sibling’s disability but to see them as a person with similarities to themselves.  You could draw pictures of each family member and look at their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Meet other families who have a disabled child so your other children see that disability is an everyday part of life and not unique to their family. You can meet families through parent support groups.

Worry about bringing friends home

  • Talk with your child about how they might explain their brother or sister’s disability to a friend.
  • Encourage but don’t expect siblings to always include the disabled child in their play or activities.

Stressful situations at home

  • Encourage siblings to develop their own social lives.
  • Some siblings find it helpful to meet other young carers. There are young carers support organisations across the UK. They can provide the space for siblings to mix with others who are just like them and share difficult emotions or situations in a supportive environment.
  • Some siblings may prefer to talk to someone outside of the family – there are many counsellors who specialise in supporting children. Your GP may be able to recommend a suitable counsellor, or you can visit the Counselling Directory website.

Sibling tips from other parents

We asked some parents what advice they’d pass onto others, and this is what they said.

  • Don’t get down about sibling troubles – your children can gain and learn from difficult experiences.
  • Join a parent support group – they really help.
  • Tell the child’s school if they’re having trouble adapting to having a disabled sibling.
  • Keep the siblings informed about their brother or sister’s disability.
  • Allow children to speak their mind, even if you’re not always comfortable with what they say.
  • Don’t put pressure on and hold high expectations of your non-disabled children – it might take them time to fully understand the situation.

Related information

 

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