Siblings of high-need children often have a range of emotions. These include worry, guilt, resentment and fear.
It’s important to address all of these feelings as they arise and to understand how each child is feeling. This will help to reduce the impact on your child with special needs.
Feelings of Isolation
Siblings of children with special needs often feel like they are neglected because their parents are focusing on the child with disabilities. This can cause them to feel alone, and it can increase their risk of depression and other mental health issues.
According to loneliness expert John Cacioppo, there are two types of isolation: objective and perceived. The former is the result of having a limited number of friends and family members, while the latter involves feeling that you have no satisfying connection to anyone or anything in your life.
A lack of social interactions can significantly affect a person’s mental and physical development. It has been shown that socially isolated children tend to have lower academic performance, are part of a less advantaged social class in adulthood, and are more likely to be psychologically distressed.
While most people will experience some degree of loneliness at one time or another, it is important for families to consider how it may impact their children. Loneliness is a serious problem that can lead to a variety of negative effects, including chronic sadness, anxiety, and hostility.
For this reason, it is important for siblings of children with special needs to get the support they need. They should be involved in their high-needs siblings’ care as much as possible, and they should also spend quality time with them.
Moreover, they should talk openly about their feelings to others, so that they can get the help and support they need. This can help them cope with their siblings’ challenges and make them feel a sense of belonging, Meyer says.
In addition, siblings should try to encourage their well siblings to be involved in their high-needs sibling’s care. This can include facilitating their involvement in therapy or other activities.
Feelings of Guilt
Siblings of high-need children may experience feelings of guilt for many reasons. Sometimes, the guilt is unfounded. It can drain their energy and erode their confidence, and can lead them to make poor decisions that could harm their siblings.
For example, when Holly enrolled her son, Will, in a residential school for children with autism spectrum disorder, she felt guilty about it even though she knew it was the best option for him. She also felt guilty about not being able to spend as much time with him and for neglecting her other symptoms of being a glass child symptoms.
Other times, siblings of special needs children feel guilty about their siblings’ disabilities or about how they treat them. They might feel embarrassed about how they interact with their brother or sister and may want to avoid spending time with them at all costs.
As a result, these siblings can have difficulty forming healthy relationships and experiencing positive outcomes as adults. They can also develop psychopathology and have problems with their school work.
A study published in Pediatrics (2013) found that children of siblings with high-needs children had lower life satisfaction and more problems with their interpersonal relationships, psychopathology, and school functioning than those of siblings of typically developing children.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that parents can help alleviate the feelings of guilt associated with WIF by engaging in activities with their children during off-work time. These activities can provide these parents with opportunities to recover their cognitive resources without feeling guilty (Volman et al., 2013). Furthermore, these parents can reduce their guilt feelings by compensating for the lack of quality parent-child interaction during off-work time by giving more tangible evidence of their love and support to their children.
Feelings of Resentment
Siblings of high-need children may experience resentment, a complex feeling that can be hard to accept and manage. Having a safe, supportive space to talk about their feelings can help them feel heard and validated.
For parents and educators, recognizing the resentment that siblings of high-need children might have can be a critical first step in supporting them to cope with this difficult emotion. Carving out special time together, setting equal expectations, and ensuring that everyone has the same opportunities for success can all contribute to lessening the feelings of resentment.
Aside from resentment, siblings can also be confused or overwhelmed by their sibling’s disability. They may worry about their brother or sister’s future and wonder whether they will be able to care for them when they grow up.
Alternatively, they might find themselves competing with their sibling for attention or control. In either case, these feelings can be exacerbated when they aren’t acknowledged or remediated.
One way that siblings can prevent resentment is to ensure that their disabled brother or sister is working towards achieving independence, such as making his bed and practicing good manners at home. This can be done at home and in the classroom by setting similar expectations for all children.
In addition, families can support siblings who are concerned about their parent’s health or need to care for a sibling by communicating with them openly. This may involve letting them know what level of support you need as a caregiver and asking for their help in caring for your parent.
The Ogdens, for example, have found that fostering independence in their son Austin, who has Williams syndrome, has helped to lessen the resentment his siblings have toward him. They have worked to make sure that Austin is trying his best to do his chores, attend school, and practice good manners.
Feelings of Frustration
Siblings of high-need children may experience a variety of feelings, including fear, anger and frustration. These feelings often stem from their child’s disability and may impact their ability to function in school, social relationships and daily life.
In general, feelings of frustration can be triggered by a number of factors, such as transitions, feeling misunderstood and unexpected or new situations. Parents can help their children to understand the reasons for these feelings and encourage them to express their emotions freely without judgment.
One common source of feelings of frustration for a child with a disability is their perception that others’ rules don’t make sense. This can be especially true for gifted children who see the world as operating according to their own rules.
These children will fight to protect their own beliefs, feelings and efforts at self-determination, and can become very distressed when they feel that the world is not logical or fair.
This can lead to a child being overly angry or resentful, which is not healthy for them.
The good news is that feelings of frustration can be overcome if you take a proactive approach to reducing the stressors in your child’s life. This can involve taking time out for yourself, giving your child support and ensuring that they have healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the difficult feelings.
It can also be helpful to talk with a family therapist or mental health professional about how your child is feeling and whether there are any other resources they might need. These professionals can offer support and advice, including a wide range of techniques to help your child build their resilience. They can also help your child identify what triggers their feelings and work to change them.
Feelings of Jealousy
Jealousy is one of the most common emotions that siblings of high-need children may experience. They may be envious of their older sibling’s ability to attend school, or of their parents’ attention. This jealousy can lead to a range of behaviours such as crying, sulking, meltdowns, and aggressiveness.
In some cases, jealousy can be so bad that it leads to aggressive behavior or even physical symptoms such as headaches, fever, dizziness, and discomfort. This is not something to be taken lightly, as it can have a negative impact on your child’s health and their mental well-being.
Siblings of high-need children can have a hard time adjusting to the new arrival of a baby brother or sister. They might feel displaced and not get enough time with their parent, or they might not be able to share in some of the decisions that are made about the new baby.
This can result in children feeling like they are not getting as much attention or care as their younger sibling and become frustrated and resentful. It is important to remember that these feelings are normal and your child will eventually learn to live with the new arrival.
Some parents may find it helpful to make one special evening a week just for their child, or to allow them to stay up later on that night. By giving them this time away from the rest of the family, it can help to reduce their jealous feelings.
The findings of this study revealed that a higher age difference between first-born children and their second children and a lower difficult temperament of the first-born child are associated with lower sibling jealousy. In addition, emotion regulation in the firstborn child was also related to the level of jealousy. This research has important implications for psychological interventions to help families of first-born children with difficult temperaments improve their emotional regulation skills.