My older son was healthy from day one. He was (and still is) the apple of our eye and the focus of all our attention. So much so that we just had to give him a younger sibling to be best friends with. He got a little brother.
Over time, my older son saw his brother change from being a relatively typical baby to a child who didn’t talk, walk, or crawl, and who interacted a bit differently with his brother. This is our “normal,” but I know it had to have some impact on my older child.
My older son has also seen his parents go from being somewhat carefree and fun to having an invisible layer of stress and tiredness all the time. He’s been sent to his grandparents’ house for up to a week at a time while mom and dad went to a different city for a surgery. He’s tagged along to therapy sessions and doctor’s appointments.
I wonder what kind of an impact that has on my son’s overall mental health.
He’s incredibly smart, but he can be very sensitive at times. Is that because of everything that he’s seen and gone through? How many other 4-year-olds know to run and call mom and dad if their little brother is gagging or spitting up?
This blog isn’t going to give many answers. There have been research studies done showing that siblings of children with disabilities can face emotional problems that manifest later in life. The simple truth is that we, as parents, have to pay a lot of attention to the kid with disabilities and just try and do our absolute best for our other children.
I don’t know what to do about that. I do know that my wife and I have talked about how we need to spend more time with our older son. We’ve gotten him more involved in things, and we’ve started validating his feelings more, too. We want him to know that what he’s going through is normal and that we support and love him. It’s hard to manage an entire environment of well-being that in some sense rotates around a disability, but we’re doing our best.
Find more information on Siblings of Children with Disabilities on this website.