Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tips for Dealing with Siblings of a Child with Special Needs

Bethany from Life with Bubba, Chicky and Nika posted this today and I just had to share it.  Now that I'm expecting our second child, my head is often filled with thoughts of how and when is it appropriate to talk about Down syndrome.  I hope to speak openly about it and not keep it out of common conversations so that there isn't stigma about it and so that this new baby girl can eventually ask any questions that she has about it without feeling like she is bringing up a taboo subject.  I know that every family has to make a decision for themselves as to how to deal with this topic, but I'm glad that I keep finding articles that give me confidence in how I hope to approach it.

Bethany just came across this list of great tips to remember when dealing with siblings of a child with special needs, as written by Sue Levine and Dr. Skotko ...

1. Be open and honest, explaining Down syndrome as early as
possible. Encourage other children to ask questions; answer them on
their level as honestly as possible. But don’t wait for siblings to ask
questions. Bring up the topic routinely in conversation.

2. Allow brothers and sisters to express negative feelings.
Acknowledge the fact that sometimes it is hard to be a brother or sister to
someone with a disability And don’t expect siblings to be saints.

3. Recognize the difficult moments that brothers and sisters may be
experiencing. As brothers and sisters grow up, they often begin to
realize that not everyone in society shares their family’s beliefs and
values. Recognize situations that may be potentially embarrassing or
stressful and do what you can to help minimize the difficulty.

4. Limit caregiving responsibilities. Children need to be children. Allow
them to be brothers and sisters, rather than becoming an extra parent.
Your children with disabilities also benefit from having siblings rather than
a family full of parents.

5. Recognize the individuality and uniqueness of each child in the
family. Be sure to point out what makes your children special; they want
to know that you notice them, too. Celebrate their accomplishments and
schedule special time with each of your children.

6. Be fair. Listen to both sides of the story and be certain to make sure
each child has responsibilities appropriate to their level of ability

7. Take advantage of supports for siblings. Both local and national
groups have opportunities for siblings to meet each other. Such
experiences are often validating.

8. Encourage parents to access support for themselves. When parents
seek out support systems for themselves, they tend to be better equipped
for the journey.

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