Having a Sibling with Special Needs

Having a sibling with special needs can be a challenge to harmony in the home. Learn how you can deal with this challenge and how you can help your parents.
Having a Sibling with Special Needs

Last update: 05 February, 2019

Having a sibling with special needs doesn’t have to change a family’s day-to-day life completely, although it will require adjusting some routines and starting others. This is why you might be experiencing some feelings that are hard to understand.

How might you feel?

There are a lot of concerns and frustrations you might feel if you have a sibling with special needs. Maybe you’ll recognize some of these:

Fear and anxiety

It can be hard to understand why your sibling is different. This is normal. The thing to do is to understand that different isn’t bad; everyone is special in their own way.

On the other hand, you might be afraid for what might happen to your sibling in the future. You might even worry on a daily basis whether there might be health complications that send your sibling to the hospital.

Feelings of guilt

You might think that you’re responsible for your sibling’s condition. These feelings can come up during early childhood and later in adulthood – especially when it’s time for you to leave home and your parents are left to take care of him or her.

It’s normal for you to live your own life and become more independent. It doesn’t mean you love them any less or that you’re a bad sibling. Always support your brother or sister and help when you can.

Sense of isolation, loss, and loneliness

These feelings can be motivated by a desire for attention from your parents, since they’ll have to spend so much time focused on your sibling who has special needs.

It’s important to find a balance so you can sometimes spend time alone with them too. Every child is unique and needs time and attention from their parents.

Having a Sibling with Special Needs

Feelings of embarrassment

You might see your family as different from others because you have different activities and routines. But no two families are really the same! Don’t be embarrassed of your family, they are the most valuable thing you have.

This is also true if you feel that you’re in an awkward situation when you have to answer questions from your classmates or teachers about your sibling. Just talk naturally.

Early maturity

You may find yourself forced to mature earlier than others by what you experience daily in your home. Maybe one of your parents is often gone. Frequent hospital visits or many experiences of tension or worry will make you see the future with more perspective and help you know how to react better to setbacks.

My sibling has special needs. What can I do?

The following suggestions will help you tackle this situation in a positive way:

The role of your parents

In general, parents are absorbed in the needs of their child with special needs, and it may seem like they don’t want to pay any attention to their other children.

You can take advantage of the opportunities to spend time with your parents, even if  they are short. Understand that this is because of the circumstances – they don’t do it on purpose. You may understand more in the future.

Communication: a positive aspect 

Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about how your home life affects you. Acknowledge your doubts, fears, and feelings with them. This will make you feel better. Additionally, they’ll then know how to support you and you can reach a solution together.

Having a Sibling with Special Needs

Learn about the disease 

Knowing everything about your sibling’s illness can help you better understand his or her condition and put yourself in their place. As you grow up you’ll be more and more able to help them.

Spend quality time with your sibling

You’ll find that it’s an excellent opportunity to bond with your family. Although you may not be able to connect directly with your sibling, the fact of being present will make him or her feel good.

Pay attention to decisions that affect your sibling

If you participate in family decisions about your sibling, you’ll stay alert and busy, and you’ll feel valued. You’ll see that you’re contributing to his or her well-being.

Positive aspects of having a sibling with special needs

Some studies by therapists have shown that children who have siblings with functional diversity aren’t less well adjusted. In fact, quite the contrary. People gain many valuable experiences from growing up with a sibling who has a special condition.

It may have brought the family closer together and allowed family members to develop special qualities and virtues, such as empathy, listening skills, or early maturity.

So if you have a sibling with special needs, despite the difficulties you may face, keep a positive attitude and realize that it isn’t necessarily a problem. Every person is different!

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.