When the opportunity to go on some training with the title ‘Parenting a sibling of a child with SEN’, I signed up straight away! It was oversubscribed and I think this reflects how hard this issue is. For all parents trying to juggle your children’s varying needs can be exhausting but this is especially tricky and amplified when one has SEN.
I always wanted to write a post about how my other two boys feel/are affected by having H as a brother. I have refrained for a variety of reasons but mainly because it’s their story to tell if and when they want to. They don’t know how different their lives can be – it’s their normal.
So this training was AMAZING! Over the next two blog posts I hope to share some of the positives and negatives of being a sibling of a child with SEN (not all from our family) and then some top tips and strategies for helping them.
Research suggests that children who have a sibling with an intellectual/developmental disability are at greater risk of experiencing challenges to their wellbeing and educational attainment. When their siblings have behavioural issues, they are said to be at higher risk.
Any sibling relationship has rivalry, fairness, attention challenges. When one sibling has a disability, these feelings are experienced more intensely.
When I first read these things although I already knew it I felt sad and intensely aware of how much my other two boys have to cope with. H’s needs affect our whole family and although we love him dearly and couldn’t imagine life without him it does have its challenges that affect us all.
In summary here are some of the challenges and negatives that siblings of children with SEN may face:
- Less attention from parents.
- Isolation/social exclusion.
- Mixed emotions and feelings.
- Having to deal with challenging behaviour and difficult to have their friends over.
- Feeling different.
- Having to be more independent than their peers.
- A loss of childhood innocence as can feel responsible for looking after and caring for their sibling.
- Concerns about the future.
- Less sleep and tricky bedtimes.
What a list! Not all of these apply to us as I am aware we don’t have the additional challenge of hospital stays and numerous medical appointments. Hats off to those that manage that as part of their family life….your heroes!
Now on to the positives:
- A greater social competence and empathy.
- A development of tolerance and patience beyond their age.
- Learning new skills.
- Priceless moments/comments.
- Skipping the queues at theme parks!
- More opportunities to do things as reduced entry prices/free carers tickets etc.
These positives and negatives will change depending on age and stage of the child with SEN and the sibling.
My next post will include some strategies and ideas to help the siblings and lots of them we will be trying ourselves at home.
Although the list of challenges and negatives can feel long and overwhelming and the guilt sets in, it’s still not without hope.
I take comfort from the fact that our family unit is no accident and it’s the best family for all of our boys. There are many special moments to treasure and I think being on a sen parenting journey has made me appreciate the smaller things more.
A greater proportion of siblings who have brothers or sisters with SEN go in the caring profession and that warms my heart. What greater qualification is there than understanding first hand some of these struggles and joys other families may be facing.