Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cain & Abel



How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)



There can few more prominent concerns when a parent has a child with special needs than the relationship between siblings. The jealousy between the unaffected and diagnosed child can be more fierce than in a family where there are no health issues. In a family where a child has a special need, the sibling is not only burning with jealousy, they can also be burdened with guilt, anger, fear, worry and a sense of injustice. These siblings are forced to mature earlier and to make sacrifices along with parents in order to compensate for the special need.



While this brings additional anguish to any loving parent, there are some helpful ideas to keep in mind when dealing with your health children.

DON'T:

  • Make the healthy child feel guilty because of their feelings or because they don't struggle with the same issues their sibling. Their troubles are certainly of concern to them.

  • Try to make things even. They never will be!

  • Overcompensate with the special needs child. This creates a whole host of problems, no the least of which is adding fuel to the flames of jealousy.

  • Dwell on your guilt. While feeling guilty is only natural, it is important to remember that these circumstances are not your fault, and that even healthy siblings have rivalry.

  • Ignore the problem. Properly addressing the issue will help you to get a handle on it. Ignoring it will only make the situation grow in size.


DO

  • Make some special time for your healthy child. Go on adventures to their favorite place, the ice cream shop, the playground or shopping. Building relationship through that reserved time helps them understand that they are equally important to you.

  • Make it safe for them to express their emotions like anger and frustration. Appropriate venting and talking the feelings through will diminish negative behaviors.

  • Applaud their accomplishments, including the kind treatment of their sibling with the special need.

  • Let them use the skills they've gained as a sibling of someone with a special need to bless others. Our eldest daughter, who has the unique perspective of being completely uninhibited by the disabled, really enjoys encouraging special needs children in our local adaptive aquatics program by swimming with them. This helps them to see the positive benefits of having a sibling with a special need.

  • Acquaint your kids with programs like SibShops (http://www.siblingsupport.org/sibshops/index_html) or books like VIEWS FROM OUR SHOES (http://www.siblingsupport.org/publications/views-from-our-shoes). In this way, they are comforted knowing that they are not alone.
Above all, cover each of your children in prayer. God loves those kids more than you ever could. He will not hesitate to help you guide them through difficulties of your circumstances.




*SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES currently holds SibShops in partnership with The YMCA at Pabst Farms (http://www.ymcaatpabstfarms.org/). For more information, e-mail us at barb@snappin.org.

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