If your typical children have a hard time getting along with their atypical sibling, it is not surprising. Sibling rivalry is natural and as old as Cain and Abel. But the additional challenge such rivalry presents with an atypical child is definitely not what you ever wanted. But if you understand wht your typical children think and feel about the sibling and themselves, finding solutions to the challenges will follow.
How do your typical children truly feel about their special brother or sister?
The typical children may play and share and say “nice” things about their brother or sister, but inside so comfortable emotions may be stirring.
They may have many different and even conflicting feelings. They may feel:
• Overly worried about their sibling
• Jealous of the attention their sib gets
• Fearful that they will become disabled
• Scared that their sib will die
• Angry that no one pays attention to them
• Resentful that they are unable to do things or go places because of their sib
• Embarrassed about their sibling’s differences
• Guilty for having negative feelings toward their sib
• Guilty for not having the same problems
They may also feel that because they are typical you expect them to take on certain roles in caring for their atypical sibling. These expectations come from the unspoken messages that underlie your directions, requests, comments, and even your praise of your typical child.
How might a child respond if he repeatedly hears a parent say:
• “What would I do without you?”
• “You are such a good little mommy”
• “I am so happy you can (run, swim, color, etc.)”
• (Even though he’s younger) “Show your sister how to be big”
• “I am so worried about (disabled sibling), but I don’t have to worry about you”
The parent means to compliment, but there’s also another message.
• Without me, my parents can’t take care of my brother
• I am a mommy to my brother
• If I don’t excel I will disappoint my parents
• I always have to be a good example to others
Having expectations such as these may lead a child to feel:
• Responsible to care for his sibling
• Resentful of having to explain his sib to everyone
• Pressure to please her parents to be or do what their sib cannot be or do
• Like the “older” one even if he is the younger one
You will find several suggestions for how to improve sibling relations and how prevent unwanted role playing in the first three FathersConnect Newsletters. Go to the ARTICLES page in the header to read the first two newsletters. You may sign up for the Newsletter by contacting me with your name and email.
If after reading the Newsletters you want additional help, contact me. I will give you more suggestions of what you can do after I hear about your situation. (contact me here)