Challenges of Siblings, Part 1 of 3

Most Commonly Reported Challenges of Siblings of Special-Needs Children

Many siblings struggle when their brother or sister carries a disability. Challenges arise unexpectedly. Parents are often unsure how to provide help and guidance. The first step to helping the siblings of special-needs children involves knowing where to look for the most common challenges. Here are the top ten:

  1. Neglected: Siblings often yearn for their parents’ time and attention because of the consuming demands brought on by their disabled brother or sister.
  2. Confused or left out: When parents and healthcare providers don’t inform siblings about the diagnosis or what it means, it can lead siblings to feel forgotten and bewildered.
  3. Isolated: Peers don’t relate to siblings’ uncommon circumstances. Often, siblings spend more time at home alone and are left with no outlet for sharing their concerns and questions.
  4. Worried: Siblings worry about the long-term needs and provision of care for their brother or sister if parents are not available. Also, when the home environment changes, anxiety can set in.
  5. Fearful: Some brothers and sisters fear that their sibling’s challenges are contagious, that the special need could be passed to other children in the future. They also become fearful at the presence of disorder and emotional intensity in family members and are afraid that they won’t know how to talk or play with their sibling,
  6. Internalized pressure: With the disability of a sibling, brothers and sisters often feel the need to perform well or to be high achievers.
  7. Resentful: Resentment often occurs in light of the increased time and attention given to their sibling.
  8. Guilt: Some siblings feel guilty when enjoying the things in life that their special-needs sibling will never enjoy.
  9. Angry: Anger can fester when a special-needs sibling is excused from regular discipline and responsibilities in the home or at school.
  10. Long-term: Other problems that might crop up over the long-term include: emotional disturbances, identity problems, unresolved grief, and physical problems due to internalized emotions.