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Special Needs Child vs. Siblings' Needs: How Do You Balance the Two

Posted by Kim Stricker

Our family has had a rough time as of late.  I wish we knew why and I wish I knew what sets it off.   I wish we knew how to better handle it.  But what I really wish is that it never would happen.  However, in our family, as in many of yours, we lead different types of lives.  We are parents with kids with difficulties.  Whether these difficulties are the results of genes, environment, or personality; we parent differently.  We have to.  There isn’t a choice.

We plan ahead for parties and family get-togethers.  We make back up plans of who will go with the child that can’t handle the event, evening, or outing.  We anticipate and make sure not to elevate the child with special needs.  And our other children, without special needs, go along with the plan. This is how they have always lived and what they know.

Kids who grow up like this become the social workers and psychologists of our future, more often than not.  They will become the understanding boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, and awesome co-worker.  They will get it.  These children know to take nothing for granted.  Especially, the illusion of the happy family.

This is not to say we do not have a happy family.  I believe we do, because we work so hard at it.  We rejoice in the mundane that went well.  We are grateful when dinner was without an incident.  Or when our family, all of us, played a board game until the end.   When there was no arguing about chores.  All reasons to celebrate, big time. 

What we have learned is that it takes a special breed of folk to continue every day with a child who is resistant, sometimes disconnected, and challenging.

I do worry about my younger son without special needs.  I also regret the time we don’t get with him.  He misses out on the board and card games promised, the cookies we wanted to bake together, and a story read to him.  Why?  His brother needed us to help him regulate or do homework for three hours instead of 30 minutes.  It is time taken away from our other child.

Our family friends are great.  They counsel our son and offer a safe haven for him to go to “normal.”  He has many homes he can retreat to, to get away from the daily stressors of living with a sibling with special needs.  As parents, we don’t have that luxury, but it is one I afford my younger son.

Even if it occasionally makes me sad.  He doesn’t always want his friends around our house.  He is gone on a play date more often than he is home.  Some days, he/we don’t know what kind of mood his brother might be in or how we will manage it.  It is sometimes stressful.  And none of us want it advertised to the outside world, any more than it already is.  We do have friends over for both children.  Some days it works.  Some days are great and all children win by seeing how it works to adapt your play to include everyone.  Easier than most of them would realize.

Some days are harder.  However, when my younger son is at a friend’s house, even though I breathe easier for a moment, I miss him.  I miss getting to know his friends better.  I miss his calming presence when he is home.  I miss his astute observations of his brother and his belief in us that we can help.   

My question is, how do I help him more?


About Kim Stricker

Kim Stricker is a mom to two boys, an elementary school teacher, and freelance writer. She also writes a blog called lifeslikethis about the daily experiences of raising a child with Asperger’s and ADHD.

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