Being the parent of a child with a disability is a lot of work. You become an advocate, caregiver, nurse, politician, therapist and so much more. It’s hard to make time for much else. But, when there are other children in the family, it is important to find a way to make time for them, too.
Being the sister of someone with a disability allows me to provide a direct perspective of how siblings feel. I can’t say that we all feel the same way because everyone feels and reacts differently, but I always felt a strong urge to protect and take extra care with my sibling. So much so that there was even a rumor in high school that she was secretly my baby!
Much like parents, many siblings put the needs of their sibling with a disability before their own. We often give up toys, TV time, socializing, time with parents, and so much more for the sake of our sibling who needs so much. Research shows that caregivers who do not take time to care for themselves (see Self Care on this website for more information) can develop serious physical and mental health problems. Could the same be true for siblings?
Of course, all siblings feel times of resentment, jealousy, and abandonment – it’s natural in a family - but children are very resilient creatures. While the events of their childhood will mold them into the adults they become, many siblings of children with disabilities become teachers, therapists, nurses, and parents because of their experiences. Read more about siblings and family support on our website.
Take advantage of respite care programs in the area – they’re a great resource! These programs can provide a safe environment for your child with a disability. Respite care can provide a few hours of time that allow you to spend time with your other children. Those few hours spent strengthening your bond with your children is very important to their well-being, emotional health and self-esteem.
Do you know about Take Time Texas? They provide a database of respite providers and helpful tools. Take a look at Care.com for a variety of care giving options. And, while you’re at it, check out our website Find Services, Groups & Events for other respite options in your area.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to help your children feel special. Time spent reading together, playing at the park, or going on a picnic can provide your kids with some much needed one-on-one time. Or, maybe have a movie or video game marathon. This time will show them that no matter what, they are important to you, too. The resources on this website also include information about fun activities and events in your area at Find Services, Groups & Events.
Those little bits and pieces of time and attention each day are important, too. Reading a bedtime story, snuggling and simple “I love yous” and “you are such a great brother/sister” go a long way in letting your children know how special they are. Like adults, children need to know that you appreciate their help and the sacrifices they make.
Remember that it’s the time and love you share with your children that will help them grow into the strong, happy and healthy adults you hope they will become.