Helping Brothers and Sisters of Children with Special Needs
“I just joined SibKids in an attempt to make some friends who can relate. So far, the people here are really supportive and helpful. I think it’s going to be a really good outlet for me,” says Lauren. Before joining SibKids, Lauren often went to her older brother for support, but he went away to college, making it difficult to relate to what’s going on in the household he no longer lives in. “It’s really hard for me to have two siblings with special needs, especially since my older brother went to college last fall. Whenever we go to family events and such, we would always stick together, and we’re really close. A lot of things that happen around here used to be funny when I have someone to laugh with because it’s so ridiculous. But these days, it’s a lot harder to see the humor,” says Lauren.
It is obvious that Lauren benefits greatly from peer support, a fact that the Sibling Support Group and DeRusha note is extremely important. “The wonderful thing about SibKids is that you can vent to other people who can relate,” says DeRusha. Daniellle Bilger, a 20-year-old SibKids member whose older sister has cerebral palsy, would agree. “Instead of being angry and keeping all your emotions in, find someone who can understand you, maybe someone else with a sib or a group like SibKids. It helps you to vent your emotions and cope with the differences in your life that others may not have to go through. When I have a problem that upsets me, I have no other friends who have a sib, so I go to SibKids, and they know what I’m going through and offer so much support and help. It’s like a family,” says Bilger.
Another Internet spot where siblings can meet up is SIBS Encounter, an international site featuring articles, photos, a place to post questions or comments to other siblings, and a “studio” where siblings can convey their feelings through art, poetry, or any other creative outlet.
Just as children want to share their thoughts and feelings about having a sibling with special needs, it is essential for parents to be open and honest with their kids. “Early on, share information about future plans and caretaking,” says Meyer. This means sitting down with your children and specifically saying, “Daddy and I are making plans for when you and your brother grow up.” This also means discussing what the child’s special needs are and how they affect your family.
Being upfront about special needs will help your typically developing children learn to respond positively to peers or other people who ask questions or make hurtful comments about their siblings.
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