Living with a disabled child can have huge effects on the entire family - parents, siblings, and extended family members. It is a unique shared experience for families and can affect all aspects of family functioning. On the positive side, it can broaden horizons, increase family members' awareness of their inner strength, enhance family cohesion, and encourage connections to community groups. On the negative side, the time and financial costs, physical and emotional demands, and logistical complexities associated with raising a disabled child can have far reaching effects. The impacts will likely depend on the type of condition and severity, as well as the physical, emotional, and financial wherewithal of the family and the resources that are available.
Siblings may struggle with the following:
- Feeling like they need to be perfect.
- Feeling like they can't express their feelings.
- Having a different idea of family and home.
- Feeling as though their problems are minimized.
- Feeling isolated.
- Dealing with intolerance early and often.
- Feeling like they are asked to help too much.
- Feeling like they must grow up quickly.
Support for Siblings
There are a lot of resources available to provide support to Siblings in lots of various ways:
- Parent to Parent run several programmes that provide support to siblings: SibShop which is an interactive day with games and activities interspersed with time for discussion and sharing. SibCamp, a fun weekend away that is just for them. Lots of outdoor activities and a safe environment where siblings can express their feeling and share their experiences. They also run a weekend for adult siblings and their parents who are interested in becoming an important part of the support and guidance of their disabled brother or sister.
- PHAB is Auckland-based and runs a programme called Sensational Siblings which provides activities, fun and support for children aged 8 to 12.
- Skylight is a national not-for-profit trust that enables children, young people, their families/whanau, and friends to navigate through times of trauma, loss, and grief by building resilience. They have a website packed full of information, resource materials and a directory of family-centred counselors that can be sourced nationally. CLICK HERE for their brochure.