If you have a child with a disability who also has siblings, you most likely are pulled in many directions. You try to love your children equally, but you can't possibly care for them all in the same way. Some children need more of your time, energy, and resources. Still, it's important to help your other children know you love them as much as the ones who need you more.
Be as fair-minded as possible. Treat your child with a disability as much like your other children as you can. Be as just as you can with discipline. Otherwise, your other children will believe the child with the disability gets away with everything and that they are unfairly treated.
All children can learn to manipulate, even children with disabilities. Try not to make excuses for the child with a disability, especially in their presence. If you make excuses, their siblings who may know more about the child's abilities than what the child allows you to see will feel like you are acting unfairly.
If your child with a disability is your eldest and the second child has to take on “older-child responsibilities,” make sure to grant that second child some “older-child” privileges, too. If the child with a disability is younger, allow your older children to have a childhood.
Make each child feel special. Involve yourself in their interests and activities as much as you can. Talk with them. Make a point to spend individual time with each of your children.
Discuss their feelings about having a sibling with a disability. Ask what they need and want from you. Assure them of your love. Let them know how special they are. Thank them for their understanding and help, and, occasionally, reward them. It is also a good idea to take each child on their own special “date.”
Letting each child know what a special place they hold in your heart and in the family celebrates each one as an individual and you as a fair and loving parent.
For additional information and a video on siblings, go to Siblings of Children with Disabilities.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.