Parents of children with special needs live on a planet most other people wouldn’t even want to visit, not even for a stopover flight. So constant are the stresses on these families that many break down. It’s hard to stay healthy when a child consumes everything, financially and emotionally.
Stresses on siblings of special needs children run high too.
Stresses on Special Needs Families
I ran across a statistic recently that indicated 85 % of families who have children with special needs break down. It’s a stunning statistic that ought to make everyone – including government, social services and education – stand up and take note. When they are done they should then ask themselves how systems and individuals can support families with special needs children better.
Siblings of Special Needs Children
Constant are the stresses on the siblings of special needs children as well. They are the ones whose time with parents is constantly interrupted by an ongoing series of doctor’s appointments, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and educational planning meetings. If life is hard for the parents of children with special needs, it’s every bit as hard for their siblings. They are also the ones, who often end up being permanent guardians to their siblings after parents pass away.
What are Some Benefits of Being Siblings of Special Needs Children?
Life is life. Both stunning and heartbreaking too. Families stick together when they can. In our family I have watched my beautiful outgoing daughter Payton grow along an entirely different path since we adopted her sister Ainsley, now five, a child with complex mental and physical health needs. Payton is, as a result of her sister and the dynamic of our family, forced to be more patient and resourceful.
Her problem-solving skills are well beyond those of most children her age. She is, like a lot of siblings of special needs children, an exceptionally compassionate little person. I suspect she will grow up to choose a helping type of career.
How Can We Create Space for Siblings?
From the time my youngest child came into our lives we have looked for ways to create special time just with Payton and that is where my the title of my blog comes from. An Ode To Toes. In the past few years I have collected a few ideas for creating special time with the ‘other child’ and here are a few.
Seven Ideas to Create Time for Siblings of Special Needs Children
- Kidnap lunch. Show up unexpectedly at your child’s school and sneak them off for lunch just with you.
- Kidnap pedicure/manicure. (see above picture) Last week I showed up an hour before the end of my daughter’s class on a Wednesday and took her for mommy and me pedicures.
- Special notes in her lunch.
- Special time alone. It can be a walk or a trip to Build-A-Bear, a bike ride, or sharing a coffee (lemonade for the younger ones) at Williams on a Friday afternoon. The key is indicating to her it’s our special time.
- Keep her out of school one afternoon. Call it a mental health day and go window shopping. Don’t spend a dime and be silly. When I am a rich princess I will wear that…
- Wake her up an hour after she has fallen asleep and take her out into the yard to sit and watch the stars on a beautiful summer night.
- Take her and her alone to the movies or a special concert. Just for two.
Parenting special needs children is challenging and rewarding. Siblings shouldn’t be forgotten in the process of parenting and advocating.