Raising children is tough. It becomes even more difficult when you have multiple children and one (or more) has special needs. There is a balancing act that must take place for dividing your time and attention. Sometimes siblings without special needs can feel as though they’re being overlooked or are not as important. It’s essential to keep open lines of communication and make sure that all of your children feel valued and heard.
Spend one-on-one time with everyone. Make sure you’re devoting individual time to each child where they get your undivided attention. If you have to, pencil it into your schedule. You don’t have to do anything extravagant. Maybe your special time is right before bed or first thing on Saturday morning before everyone else is awake. Of course, you can plan little outings as well, such as taking just one child with you to run an errand or have lunch at their favorite place. Ask for help from family and friends to make sure other children are looked after so you can have some alone time with each one.
Let them be a kid. Because siblings don’t have special needs, sometimes they are called upon to help out a lot. While it’s not unreasonable for them to pitch in from time to time or be responsible for certain chores, make sure you’re not over-relying on them. Let them be a kid too and spend time playing outside, hanging out with friends, and enjoying their toys.
Have meaningful conversation. Make it a point to get to know each child as an individual. What are their hopes and dreams? What activities do they really enjoy? What are their strengths and challenges in school? Who are their friends? Keep open lines of communication and be sure to talk about things they enjoy or are concerned about.
Let them make decisions. Do you always go to the same restaurants or places because it’s easy and you know any special needs will be accommodated? While this can be comforting, it can also be tiring for siblings. Get them involved in decision making and planning. Let them choose where to go sometimes and do your best to make it work for your family. Show them that their opinion matters, and you are listening.
Maintain fair expectations. This can seem tough depending on each child’s abilities. However, set clear rules and expectations and hold everyone to them. You may have to explain why certain modifications are made for siblings with special needs, but don’t let them get away with things you wouldn’t let their brothers or sisters do. Talk about what is fair and come to mutual agreements on expectation and responsibilities.
Don’t forget to help siblings build strong relationships with one another. Show them how they can be helpful and supportive, but also how they can have fun and be silly with one another. Teach siblings how to advocate for and educate others about their brother or sister with special needs. Focus on similarities rather than differences so they see how much alike they really are and how they enjoy some of the same things. PediaPlex can help children build their skills and independence and teach families how everyone can work together to support goals and communication.
Get your child the support and services they need to overcome challenges, improve communication, and build their independence by contacting PediaPlex.