Friday, May 6, 2016

How Kids Benefit From Having a Sibling With Special Needs

A child with special needs brings a unique challenge to any family dynamic.

It's easy as parents to worry about how much siblings miss out and fear they may grow to resent their special sibling (and possibly us parents too!).

However, many of these worries are unfounded as I see in my family just how much my kids are learning and growing from the whole experience.

Special needs brings families together

We're a family. We're a team.

I don't shelter my kids from what is happening. They are included in our appointments. They see me cry. They participate in therapy sessions. I answer all their questions and we pray for Emma together. This openness and transparency has really helped them embrace the challenge rather than provoke anxiety because they don't understand what is happening. It also reduces opportunities for resentment because they feel included.

When siblings are included in the recovery process they are more likely to embrace the journey rather than resent it. 

Kids develop compassion when they have a sibling with special needs

Although not easy, having a sibling with special needs is part of the story that shapes who they are.

My 8 year old told me recently he wants to become an engineer and design an indoor playcafe for kids in wheelchairs. This was the point where I realised how much my kids are learning from this journey and how this is shaping who they are in a good way!

Siblings develop compassion which translates into a desire to help others.

My boys are brilliant little therapists. Each one of my boys will at different times cuddle up with Emma on the couch and read her a book, sing to her or take her into the room to do 'therapy'. They put her on the swing and correct her gently when she hits or throws something. They encourage her to speak and have more patience than I do.

Kids develop resilience when they have a sibling with special needs

Siblings are forced to develop resilience as they learn the world isn't a perfect place and develop ways of coping.

This maturity and resilience will help them deal with the challenges that inevitably arise in life.

Siblings learn how to be kind, selfless and put others first

Our consumer culture tells us we should always think about ourselves, find our inner peace, make ourselves happy etc...The bible tells us that true 'inner peace' comes from knowing Jesus and living a life of service to others. Thinking of ourselves LESS is actually better for us.

Dr Caroline Leaf details in her book "Switch on your brain" how helping others actually makes us smarter and supports brain development.

Siblings learn the hard way that sometimes we need to put others first.

This is not a bad thing. Kids these days are incredibly entitled and spoilt (mine are no exception) and it's a challenge to counteract this culture. Having a sibling with special needs forces kids to focus less on themselves and helps develop their character.

Having a sibling with special needs obviously has its challenges but seeing as it's beyond our control we can make a choice to focus on the positive to see how God really can work "all things together for good".

Be encouraged! xo

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