Sibling Rivalry Involving Children with Special Needs

Life can be difficult for children with special needs, but it can also be tough on their siblings as well. They face the challenges of watching their sibling get more attention from their parents, struggle and suffer, while dealing with the stares and comments of strangers and kids in school. They can battle feelings of fear, embarrassment, loneliness, and guilt. Luckily, there are ways to help them.

Listen and be honest. Be a good listener when it comes to your children. Talk to them about their feelings and don’t keep them in the dark when it comes to their sibling’s condition. Explain treatments and the reasons for them in a simple way that they can understand. Let them know it is okay to be afraid, and to feel jealous or angry with their sibling.

Play fair. There’s a difference between fair and equal. Children with special needs may not be able to do all of the household chores or tasks that siblings can do, and that may leave the siblings feeling resentment. You will need to treat your child with special needs differently, but that doesn’t mean she gets to get out of helping around the house if she is physically able to. Assign all children responsibilities that they can handle for their age and ability level.

Don’t make siblings responsible for your special needs child’s care. It is fine to enlist help from your other children and let them take care of their sibling from time to time. However, turning them into little nurses puts too much pressure on a child and can quickly turn feelings of pride and love into resentment and anger.

Schedule alone time. Make sure you plan quality alone time with your children without special needs. One on one time with you and your spouse can make a world of difference in your child’s life. Watching the attention being giving to a special needs sibling is hard and often leaves children wishing they were the one with the condition. Show them that they are important too by scheduling outings, activities and events around them. And don’t forget that they need help with homework and other kid stuff as well.

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About Nancy

I am a freelance writer focused on parenting children with special needs. My articles have been featured in numerous parenting publications and on I am the former editor and publisher of Vermont HomeStyle Magazine. I am a wife and mom to a two daughters, one with cystic fibrosis and one who is a carrier for cystic fibrosis.