Family Dynamics

  • Negotiating the Sibling Dynamic With a Disabled Child

    It’s another frantic Monday morning. You are trying to help your son into his wheelchair while your other son stands impatiently at the door, angry that his brother is making him late for school.
    Every parent wants to provide their children with a stable family structure. When one of your kids has a disability, your whole family must adjust to a new norm for daily living. It’s up to you to react and cope with the circumstances and find ways to deal with the added stress. Here are a few of the common reactions of children with disabled siblings:
    • Be afraid that they can “catch” the disability
    • Feel jealous and left out as the child with the disability will require more attention to attend to everyday needs
    • Be embarrassed about having a child or sibling with a disability
    • Lash out at the child with the disability due to resentment
    • Be concerned about the future

    In order to overcome the new emotional and physical obstacles of life with a disabled child, it’s important to make sure your family is on the same page. At the core of every healthy relationship is good communication. Start by educating your family on the nature of your child’s disability. Make sure everyone understands the challenges your child faces and has a role in helping meet their needs. In the beginning, many family members will feel overwhelmed and it’s helpful to seek guidance from a counselor or support group. It’s crucial to make sure each of your children feels valued and loved. Set aside time with each child and keep communication lines open so that they feel comfortable coming to you to express any questions or frustrations. Once you establish a schedule and a certain normalcy for daily living, you’ll find that your home runs more smoothly. However, sibling rivalry is a natural occurrence among all children. It’s important to monitor your children’s interactions and foster healthy relationships through play and dialogue. Set ground rules for acceptable treatment of other family members and look for ways to build family unity. Working together to overcome chronic stress can help your family not only survive, but thrive. How have you handled this situation? Does your family have any tricks?

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