Sibling Relations: Why It’s Impossible to Find Balance in a Special Needs Family
I’m going to be completely honest with you and you may not like what I’m going to share.
I don’t think it’s possible to give equal attention to your children when one, or more of them have special needs.
I’ll take a step further and declare it to be impossible.
I’ve tried for years to balance the additional needs of my son, Gilbert (albinism, autism, anxiety), and my eldest daughter, Matilda (autism, anxiety), with the equally important needs of their younger sister, Delilah.
But it’s simply not possible.
The very nature of having special or additional needs means that more attention will need to be paid to addressing those needs. That can’t be sugar coated, ignored or avoided. That’s the truth.
And, since I haven’t yet come up with a time machine, time turner or any other way to magically create extra time, it’s inevitable that the extra time needed to address their additional needs has to come from somewhere else.
Which is usually time I would otherwise spend with my husband, on my own needs or with my other children.
There are only 24 hours in each and every day, after all…
Yes, I feel guilty about spending more time with Gilbert and Matilda.
But, I’d feel equally guilty if I didn’t spend the time required to address their needs. On balance, I think it’s more important to give Gilbert and Matilda the time and attention they need now, so they can develop the skills and independence they need for the future. I make special time for Delilah, as much as I can, but there are some days where the needs of her siblings have to come first and I’ve had to accept that.
Yes, I do worry that Delilah doesn’t get enough attention.
However, she’s grown up knowing no different. In fact, she’s found unique ways to entertain herself (her imaginary play is gorgeous to watch). Plus, she’s no slouch when claiming our attention when she needs it (she can be VERY demanding when she wants to be!) In many areas, she’s far more independent and skilled than her older siblings may ever be, which gives me comfort that she is coming along despite those days when our attention is less forthcoming.
Yes, I do my best to cultivate loving relationships between my kids.
It can be hard to manage the feelings and needs of all three but I’m always mindful of their interactions with each other. Delilah has lovely relationships with Gilbert and Matilda (although the two girls tend to bicker as much as they share similar interests). Of all the sibling relationships, it’s the one between my autistic kids which I worry about most. Gilbert and Matilda have never gotten along and I can’t see that changing anytime soon!
Yes, jealousy does rear it’s ugly head sometimes.
That’s a reality in any family. Interestingly, Delilah isn’t the one who complains about not having enough time with us. Well, she complains that we don’t “play” with her enough (but if we said yes every time, it’d be Barbie 24/7 at our place!) In fact, it’s her siblings who do that, the ones who get most of our daily attention!
I try to have one-on-one time with each of the kids each day and do my best to even up outing opportunities where possible. I make a conscious effort to value them individually and to tell them so, wherever possible.
I don’t always get it right, but I’m always trying…
Yes, I hold concerns for the future and the level of care Delilah may carry.
My husband and I considered this when we were first expecting Delilah. At that stage we did not know that Matilda was on the spectrum so we hoped the girls would be able to support each other should they be required to care for Gilbert. Matilda’s diagnosis has obviously changed the equation for Delilah.
We expect Matilda to be fully independent but we are still not sure about Gilbert. So, it does concern us that Delilah may inherit the bulk of the caring responsibilities one day. But, that’s another reason why we’re focusing our efforts on her siblings, to give them the tools they need to live as independently as possible.
Managing sibling relations in a special needs family is tough. It’s impossible to evenly balance out attention across all members of the family, regardless of how hard you try.
However, over time, you can make it work if you let go of that expectation. Accept that your special needs kids require more of your attention and start to let go of the guilt.
You may find that once you’re free of the guilt, you’ll be in a better position to take advantage of the opportunities to bond one-on-one with each of your kids, as they come your way.
Remember, it’s the quality, not the quantity of time, that counts x
This post is part of a Parenting a Child with Special Needs blog hop where myself and other special needs bloggers share our thoughts on a set theme each month. This month’s theme is “sibling relations.” I’d love for you to check out all the other posts linked up for this month!
Reactive Attachment Disorder and Sibling Relations | Every Star is Different
When Being a Special Needs Sibling is too Hard | Life Over C’s
5 Things All Siblings of Special Needs Kids Need | The Chaos and The Clutter
The Shadow World of Special Needs Sibling | 3 Dinosaurs