You may be familiar with the term Glass Children; Glass Children are children who are growing up in a home with a sibling who takes up a disproportionate amount of parental energy. This can be a child with an obvious physical, learning or emotional disability. The pressure on parents of children with special needs is immense and it is common for their children without the disability to feel that they miss out on certain activities, days out or just time away from their sibling to be themselves.
Positive Path Foundation are now supporting siblings of children with disabilities by arranging bespoke days out, this not only a chance for siblings to have a great time but give the parents time to do the things that they need to do with their children with disabilities without feeling guilty that their other children are missing out.
Our staff are very well versed in not only supporting our adult members of Positive Path Foundation but also in many cases the whole family.
Being in the company of other children who have a similar home life gives them a chance to talk to a friend who understands, and our staff can help them with their emotions towards their sibling.
Siblings do tend to feel guilty about the feelings they have towards their disabled brother or sister and we are here to help them channel those feelings into something positive.
As this service grows, we would like to hold a weekly youth night for these children so they can get to forge some great friendships with likeminded individuals who share a mutual understanding of what it is like to grow up with a sibling with special needs.
Our aim is eventually to extend our service to provide ‘home care’ to give the parents and the siblings time out to enjoy a meal or go to the cinema knowing that their special needs child is in good hands in their own home while they enjoy some well-deserved time out together.
Tips for supporting a disabled child’s siblings
- Let siblings choose if they want to help with their brother or sister.
- If you can, try to spend a little time with each child on their own, even if this is reading a book or going to the local park.
- Ask friends and family to help siblings continue their normal routines, such as going to sports clubs or other things they like to do.
- Ask your local authority about short break services in your area.
- Some people find it helpful to have cards explaining their child’s condition. These can give siblings a simple way to talk about their disabled brother or sister to their friends.
- Plan activities and outings you can do as a whole family.
Worry about bringing friends home
- Talk with your child about how they might explain their brother or sister’s disability to a friend.
- Encourage but don’t expect siblings to always include the disabled child in their play or activities.
- Let them retreat to their bedroom, to give them their own space with their friends.
- Acknowledge siblings’ negative feelings about their brother or sister and talk about the feelings of guilt they may feel. Explain that everyone gets angry with other family members sometimes.
Stressful situations at home
- Encourage siblings to develop their own social lives.
- Some siblings find it helpful to meet other young carers to share difficult emotions in a supportive environment. There are young carers support organisations across the UK such as ours.
- Some siblings may prefer to talk to someone outside of the family. Our staff are always available to talk to.
- Tell your kids what the doctors have told you. Try to answer their questions honestly.
Limited time and attention from parents
- Every so often put the needs of siblings first and let them choose what to do.
- Decide on certain times you will dedicate to siblings individually, for example bedtime or day trips once a month.
- Try to find activities that the family can enjoy together, but also other activities to enjoy separately so each child has something special.
- Try to arrange short term care so you can attend important events with siblings, like sports day. Our services can cover most times of day or evening.
- Sometimes take your disabled child along to their sibling’s event: siblings supporting each other works both ways.
Whatever the need of the family is we are here to help. Jane is mum to a young man with autism so understands life with disability, also some members of our team are also parents to special needs children.