There is a special bond between siblings. As one of life’s greatest joys, siblings are ours to love, to bicker with, and to learn from. As we grow with them throughout the years, they are truly among the limited few who can understand our lives from a personal point of view. They understand the obstacles and issues of inner family moments.
While this is true for most sibling relationships, children with siblings who have disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy have a different experience. As parents, a constant concern is to simply do what is best for the children with the time, resources, and energy available. As parents of children with Cerebral Palsy, much of life is focused on providing extra support and meeting the needs of the child. Able-bodied siblings experience life in a particular way that often goes unnoticed.
Understanding This Family Dynamic
The sibling relationship between children with Cerebral Palsy is a topic that is highly under-researched. With any disability, the main focus of most families revolves around the parent-child relationship. This means that able-bodied siblings are forced into a tough position. As families grow older, this sibling may experience a range of emotions and tribulations that are unique to them.
Common Challenges Siblings Experience
Having a sibling with disabilities forms a variety of outcomes for different families, but they all share common challenges amongst one another. Emotionally, siblings may feel jealousy or resentment towards their brother or sister, as they may be held to a different set of standards in the family. This can make siblings feel as though they aren’t getting the same emotional treatment as the other.
Children with Cerebral Palsy often require costly services, meaning parents do not have enough money or resources to support the wants and needs of the able-bodied child. Parents often spend a majority of their time with the child with Cerebral Palsy, at the expense of the sibling. Able-bodied siblings may feel neglected because much of the parent’s energy is focused on the needs of the child with Cerebral Palsy.
As children get older, they begin to understand and appreciate life in a different light. This can bring a strong mix of emotions. From guilt to resentment, children often feel emotional pressure that they don’t think others can understand.
How To Support Them
For parents, it is important to spend one-on-one time with their able-bodied children. This special time communicates to the child that their individual needs and wants are cared for and creates a framework for communication. Even though children with Cerebral Palsy require extra efforts in many forms, able-bodied children must know that they are not overshadowed as an individual.
In looking at helping families work through some of these challenges, it is important to create a sense of community through support and understanding. Our passion at Children’s Cerebral Palsy Movement is to do just that: aid in making the lives of everyone in the family feel secure and loved. We are devoted to connecting with one another, as many of us share similar tribulations.
One of the ways in which we support families who struggle with creating a normal lifestyle due to Cerebral Palsy is through our community events. The benefit of our Oso Fit Fun Walk/Run, Hop To It! Egg Hunt, and Dare to Dream Christmas Extravaganza is that it simultaneously meets the needs of the whole family. These events give every family member an opportunity to participate, relax and mingle in an atmosphere that makes them feel safe.