According to http://www.aboutourkids.org “Many parents have to spend a great deal of their time attending to a child with special needs. As a result, the other children in the family may feel that their own needs have lower priority or they may have other worries. These reactions may be expressed in various ways. Some children and adolescents may
- Feel alone or neglected or jealous about the extra attention given to a child with special needs
- Wish that they too had problems to get more attention
- Worry that the disability is contagious and that they might catch it
- Become overly helpful or noncompliant in an effort to gain approval
- Try to ease their parents’ burden by not making demands or feeling guilty
- Feel guilty about their own good health
- Feel embarrassed or resent having to involve their sibling with neighborhood friends
- Be afraid to express negative feelings to avoid adding stress to the family
- Worry about the care and future of their sibling”
Let me work through each reaction, and share how my experience has been. I don’t want any of my new readers to think that I experience all of the above and decide that they’ll give me a pity party.
- I don’t feel alone, neglected or jealous about the extra attention my brother has. I actually feel glad that he receives extra attention because I’ve read through all my parent’s special needs support books and know that they have one helluva job to do. I also feel glad because I understand a lot about my brother’s condition and know that he is a real fighter and deserves all the extra attention. I know that I have a large extended family to support me in oder that I may not feel alone and neglected. I am not jealous because as a small child, I was just as demanding as Yasin. I was one of those pesky precocious kids who needed constant mental stimulation. I felt a lot of pain, perhaps even as much pain as my brother feels, because I worried over so many things that weren’t under my control. The emotions that relapsed when I became a special needs sister, I had already felt as a child.
- I have quite serious problems myself. So, I didn’t wish for any more. I battle depression and that alone overwhelms me and my parents. Perhaps, my other healthy brothers feel differently. But, they must be quite adept at hiding their feelings, because I am the nosiest sister they have ever known. I’ve always had more than enough attention.
- I have never worried that cerebral palsy was contagious because as soon as he was diagnosed with it, I read anything on the topic that I could get my hands on. And of course, I educated my healthy brothers.
- I have never been over-compliant to gain approval. I just do what I can for him, and don’t feel guilty when I am consumed by my own interests. My parents have always been sure that we pull our weight, but only to a clear and defined extent. They approve of me whether I am the lousiest sister or the the saintliest sister they have ever met. And of course, I’m only in the middle, and don’t care to gain perfection.
- I don’t try to ease my parents’ burden by not making demands. I am very demanding. I’m always wanting this or that, and if they think it’s a reasonable demand, they fulfill it for me.
- I don’t feel guilty about my own good health. I’m not perfectly healthy, so I suppose this is the least of my concerns. I know what causes cerebral palsy, and why I didn’t get to become one of 5 of 2000 children born with it.
- I don’t feel embarrassed or resent having to involve my sibling with neighborhood friends. Why, I don’t even have any neighborhood friends. Even if I did, I’d show Yasin off and convince everyone that he’s no different than them. And I’m a terribly good persuader.
- I am not afraid to express negative feelings to avoid adding stress to the family. My parents themselves have plenty of negative feelings about having a special needs son. But they worked through their emotions, and help us to do so too.
- I do worry about the care and future of my sibling. I can plan as much as I want as to how to include myself in Yasin’s future, but in the end, no one knows how it will turn out. I hope to look after him full-time someday. I’m definitely against working in an office, and know that I’ll be begging for something to do and someone to look after. Especially because I am the type of person that will end life as a spinster.
I think that my parents have succeeded in not allowing us to experience these reactions as a result of a few simple, but effective things they do. My parents do focus on trying to include Yasin as a full member of the family, but they never forget that their well-children are as well. They have special “alone” times for each of us, where we are lavished attention to the point that we feel guilty that Yasin is not included. They also know that we don’t have to include Yasin in everything. If something is too taxing for Yasin to do, they arrange for someone to care for him whilst the rest of the family enjoys whatever it is that they want to do. They also encourage us to pursue our own interests and get out the house once in a while to savor our independence. They make sure we develop friendships outside the family (though for me, they have not yet succeeded). They also make sure that Yasin does everything he can do for himself by himself. They compliment us a lot, and our self-esteem has always been high. They teach us that it’s okay to ask questions and that they’ll try to correct any misconceptions we have.
My parents also let us know that being sibling to a special needs child has its benefits. Yasin teaches us to honor differences, to develop insight and sensitivity to other people’s feelings, to be patient and compassionate, to be perseverant and to smile in the face of difficulties.
Yasin is a great sibling. I hope to be as great a sibling to him too.