Does having a child with a disability impact the lives of his/her siblings? Absolutely. All kids want and need attention. The disabled child almost always needs additional attention of some type beyond siblings. The attention may be to care for physical needs, extra homework help, medical attention, emotional support or a host of other manifestations.
Recent studies have found that siblings of disabled kids may themselves develop emotional problems. NeuroNet Learning recently reported on a study that tested whether siblings of children with disabilities had higher levels of parent-reported behavioral and emotional impairments. Emotional impairment in children and adolescents is typically defined as an inability to engage in appropriate social behavior at home, school, and in the community. Previous research has shown that individuals who suffer from behavioral and emotional impairments often experience very high levels of anxiety when encountering stressful situations.
Some of the anxiety may be a carryover effect from the parents stress. Caring for a disabled child can stress finances, relationships, energy, work, etc. Without meaning to, parents can inadvertently let these stressors affect their relationships with non-disabled siblings. If not appropriately addressed, the non-disabled child can develop anxiety or other issues.
In the study referenced above, parents self-reported behavior patterns of non-disabled siblings. Common issues reported were feelings of unhappiness and sadness, nervousness, and behavioral problems at home and at school.
Must families fall into this pattern? No, there is much to do that will help. One of the first steps is to remember that every child receive what he needs, not what he wants. This is just plain good parenting skill. Time disparity will always happen with siblings, and often it is short term. A sick child may need extra attention while recovering from an illness, etc. Siblings need to be taught that this is okay, whether short or long term.
Quality time spent with every child must be high quality. Not every child has intense needs all the time, but all do at some times. Parents need to learn to balance their time to meet each child’s needs where they are at any given period. The task is not easy, and many people lack natural organization and prioritization acumen.
Fortunately, help is available either in real time or cyber time. Many websites give excellent tips on organization, how to prioritize needs by age, and good basic help in lots of child needs. If someone needs a starter, professional organizers are available to come into a home to help a family regain physical control in the space they have. Sometimes this boost is all that someone needs, and the person to person touch does the trick.
Professional counseling can also help parents and families understand stress, time needs, etc., Counselors trained to deal with emotional stress can give families activities tailored to their specific situation to slowly implement into their routine. Small changes can make huge differences in relationships and lower stress levels.
Lower stress levels make a positive family dynamic a reality. Parenting isn’t an automatic outcome, but with help and planning emotional stress for parents and siblings of disabled children can have a healthy family dynamic.
Follow all the news about Green Living, American Made, Pets, Education and Child Health by subscribing to my articles. Click on the "Subscribe" button, or here: http://www.examiner.com/user-bmader.