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Sibling Rivalry

Sibling Rivalry

Two Sides of Growing Up with a Disabled Sibling

Children who grow up with a disabled sibling have both negative and positive consequences, according to the University of Michigan Health System. While the stress of a disabled sibling may cause a child to act out, the advantages help shape a better adult. How the sibling handles the stress of a disabled sibling is dependent on how the parents recognize the child’s stress, and if they act accordingly to help the child deal with the situation.

The Good Side

The “good side” of growing up with a disabled sibling happens when parents and health care professionals realize that the child without a disability also has special needs cognitively. The disabled sibling will naturally gain more attention, sometimes making the other child feel left out. However, diligent parents can seize the opportunity and keep the non-disabled child involved, helping him or her learn:

  • Supportiveness
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Acceptance
  • Loyalty
  • Dependability
  • Empathy

In fact, studies have proven that, when parents and health care professionals find ways to keep the non-disabled child involved and feeling good about him or herself, the child develops the above list faster. He or she will also keep those traits throughout life, and be better adjusted to life’s challenges as an adult.

The Difficult Feelings

There will be times of difficult feelings for the non-disabled child, especially when mom and dad MUST give all the attention to the disabled child.

  • Worry
  • Jealousy
  • Fear of losing family members
  • Anger and isolation
  • Resentment
  • Embarrassment
  • Pressure to “fill the sibling’s shoes”
  • Guilt for not liking their sibling

The important role parents and health care professionals play in this process is to keep tuned into the needs of the non-disabled sibling to help ease some of these feelings, and to watch for specific red flags.

What Are the Red Flags?

The red flags that signal a child may need professional help are:

  • Changes in sleeping or eating, either too little or too much
  • Physical symptoms, such as pain
  • Perfectionism
  • Hopelessness
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Lack of concentration
  • Talking about hurting the self
  • Not wanting to separate from parents
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Withdrawal
  • Frequency in crying or breaking down, especially temper tantrums

Watch for Sibling Abuse

Sibling rivalry is normal, however, the rivalry could cross into abuse. It’s important to watch for these signs:

  • Avoidance of sibling
  • Changes in behavior for either sibling
  • Acting out abuse during play
  • Acting out in inappropriate sexual manners for either sibling
  • Rigid roles: one is the aggressor while the other is the victim
  • Increased violence over time

There are a number of paths to help, and the Vancouver Home Health Care Agency can assist in finding those paths.
At Vancouver Home Health Care Agency, Caring and Compassion is our business.

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