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Supporting Siblings

Parents and carers often worry about how having a brother or sister with additional needs could affect their other children.

It can be a worry that the rest of the family might get ‘left out’ and not get the attention they need. There are challenges in having a member of the family who needs extra care and attention, but there are positives too.

Children who have siblings with additional needs are;

  • More understanding of the needs of others and less likely to judge.
  • Use the patience and kindness they have learnt at home to be good friends and help others who find life more difficult.
  • They can be more confident and independent than others their age.

At times it will be difficult for siblings. They can feel guilty for feeling jealous of the attention their brother or sister needs. They might feel frustrated and angry.

As they get older many children like to be ‘the same’ as their friends. They may feel embarrassed that their brother or sister is ‘different’ and then feel guilty for feeling that way. They might keep their own worries to themselves because they know you are already under pressure. It is not easy for them and it is not easy for parents and carers who are doing their best in a hard situation.

There are ways to help your other child cope with the tougher times they may have as the brother or sister of a child with additional needs.

  • Balancing the different needs of everyone in the family is never easy. This is especially the case when a child in your family has additional needs.

    It can be hard to find time to give your child one to one time when you have another child who needs a lot of your attention. It is really important that you find some moments where your other child knows you are focussed on them.

    If you have a partner, friend or family member who helps you out then this may be easier to manage. Ask them to be with your child with additional needs for a while (even if you and your other child are just in the next room).

    If you do not have someone to give you this space;

    • Check if you are eligible for any respite care. You can discuss this with any professionals that work with your child, call Just One Number or contact Norfolk County Council’s Respite Services
    • Look at the routines in the house, can you shift things to give time to your other child? Is there a time of day which is quieter for you? Could they go to bed 15 minutes later so they have time with you? Could you sometimes have a separate mealtime together? Read a story?
  • Listening to your child and talking to them will give them time to make sense of their thoughts and feelings. There are some good ideas for communicating with your child about how they are coping *here*.

    Give your child age appropriate information about the condition their sibling struggles with. Keep them up to date on any changes. Brothers and sisters worry about each other and manage better when they have the right information.

    Keep your child’s school updated with what is happening in the family. They can offer your child extra support if they are struggling.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) Health Questionnaire will help you to think about your knowledge, skills and confidence in understanding and supporting your baby or child’s health. The results of this can help us, to support you, in setting goals and priorities in a way that is right for you and your family. On completion of the questions you will be signposted to some self care resources which are tailored to your responses. This will help you to take steps to improve your family's health and wellbeing. *Click Here* to find out more. 


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