Attention to Detail: Siblings of Disabled Children


Having a child with a disability has a profound effect on a family, particularly where there are other children. Parents find it difficult trying to give the children who are not disabled all the time they need.

Siblings look after each other

It is worth remembering however, that researchers have found the effect to be small, and that parents generally report feeling more negative than the children themselves. There does seem to be an increase in depression and anxiety and there are a number of emotions and situations that you will have to prepare your children to face in the future. Thankfully there are services available that can help you, as a family, deal with the problems you face and obtain the support you need. It is possible for all the family to enjoy time together, and for all of your children to be happy and achieve as they should.

Identifying With Your Child

Monica McCaffery, founder and director of Sibs, a support and information organisation for brothers and sisters of disabled people, said that about half a million children grow up with a disabled sibling in the UK. Put into perspective, this means that there are around half a million children who are dealing with all the questions and emotions that come along with having a brother or sister with a disability.

Some of the common emotions that children may feel include:
  • Feeling as though they do not get as much quality time
  • Feeling that they are missing out on part of their childhood
  • Feeling as though they have to help with their disabled sibling even though you haven’t asked

Dealing With Emotions

Sitting with your child and talking to them about their emotions, and why they are feeling the way they do, can go a long way to alleviating these worries. As a parent, you will be busy, and it can be difficult to find time for the children as well as yourself. Spending time with your children both as a group and individually is one way to get to the crux of any negative feelings they may have. If your child requires many operations because of their disability, you may find yourself spending time away from your other children, creating feelings of jealousy and anxiety.

Wondering why your parent is always absent or missing important school dates to be with your disabled sibling can create a rift in the family home. Explaining to your child why their disabled sibling is spending so much time in the hospital can help them to get an understanding of the situation, and to empathise with their sibling.

Helping Your Child

Talking to them about their sibling's disability can also help them to answer questions they may get from their friends about the situation. Children can become frustrated when they are asked questions they cannot answer fully, because they don’t have an understanding of the condition. This is all part of preparing your child for the outside world and putting them in a position to confidently express themselves.

Finding a support network for your children either with or without the presence of their disabled sibling is something that you as a parent can look in to. Whilst getting respite for your disabled child, you can get something similar for your other children. There are a number of organisations that interact with children who have disabled siblings.

Organisations such as Young Sibs, Sibs and Young Carers can help your child to interact and relate to other children who are in a similar situation to them.

Here are some top tips to take away from this article to help your child who has a disabled sibling:
  • Try creating a "worry box" – children can write down an emotion they felt that week and as a family you can discuss solutions to this emotion
  • Take informational days out with your child to learn about disability and how it affects your disabled child – this will help to prepare them for questions they may get about their sibling
  • Contact organisations that interact with siblings of disabled children to put your child in contact with people who will understand what issues they face

News Archive

Get In Touch