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How to Raise Special Needs Without Alienating Siblings
Parenting in general can be overwhelming. Add a disability, whether it be physical, mental, learning-oriented or some other condition, and the job can be that much more daunting. When there is more than one child involved, no matter how able or disabled they each may be, there are ways to handle the juggling act that is parenthood so that the entire family can grow healthy bonds with each other. And so that everyone can cope with the challenges that such a household can bring.
Get Organized and Stay on Schedule
Taking care of a special needs child can take up a vast majority of a guardian’s time and energy. From learning everything you can about the condition and what it entails, to various doctor and specialist appointments, to seeing about special accommodations both at home and at school, the list of things that must be done can seem endless. Fitting time and effort into more than cursory attention to the better-abled children who are also under your care can easily fall by the wayside without realizing it.
Being organized is essential. Keep track of your efforts. One of the best things any parent can do to is to schedule not only doctor and other appointments but also certain events such as playtime. Be sure to set aside time for each child individually, at least once a week if not more, along with other family time. This does not mean you can’t be spontaneous, but it does allow breaks in your busy pace to occur more often if you purposely pen them in between all the other appointments.
Provide Positives to Each of Your Children
Praises and other positives go a long way, too, and can be doled out with as much frequency as you can manage. And always be sure to let each child, no matter their condition, know that they are special and loved in your eyes no matter what. Make the effort every day. Everyone will feel better when positive messages are provided on a regular basis.
Keep in mind that even when they receive their own time with their parents and other positives, non-disabled siblings may still feel neglected on occasion and act out on those negative feelings. This is due to all the extra attention that usually needs to be poured into their disabled sibling’s care. When a tantrum or other emotional flare-up occurs, time-outs followed by heart-to-heart talks are always good. And again, emphasize with them that they are just as special and loved as anyone else in the family.
Teach Your Children How to Interact with Each Other
Also, inform the abled children about their sibling’s particular disability and what it entails. You may even get the non-impaired children involved in their sibling’s care, as is fitting to each age and situation. Very young children may not understand more than ‘Danny is fragile, so we have to be more careful,’ while older juveniles may be able to take their special siblings for a walk in the park or other fun activities. Encourage interaction in whatever form is possible. Despite whatever needs each represents, they are still brothers and sisters and need to be able to connect with each other and learn to get along.
Take Parenting Breaks and Get Other Help as Possible
Making private time for each child and for yourself can be difficult, especially if you have one with severe problems or otherwise requiring round-the-clock care. Again, organization and scheduling is your best friend. Obtaining child care breaks is very important and should be marked on the calendar as often as possible. Not just for you the parent, but for the rest of your household as well.
If your insurance or other aspects of your budget do not adequately cover respite care, ask your family physician, local church or other such helpful organization about obtaining aid. Many wonderful groups and charities exist for whatever special needs any of your children may have, too, and some of these organizations may offer some sort of day care swap, financial aid or similar help. Find your local chapter and see what resources are available. When possible, find other parents who are dealing with similar issues to yours and set up play groups or even a neighborhood child care co-op. The moral support alone from interacting with other families can help ease the stress that comes with this type of demanding family life. And less stress can mean fewer squabbles at home.
Even if you have two or more children who all suffer from similar, or even differing disabilities, rivalry can occur. The above suggestions are just as useful in this circumstance. So whether dealing with one child who has special needs along with other ‘abled’ children or handling two or more children each with disabilities of their own, the above basics can be applied to any household. Scheduling, special one-on-one time, positive reinforcement, education and care breaks are tools available to any parent. No matter what shape their particular family may take.