Why does he always get his way? Why does he get to choose again? I never get to do anything! He never gets in trouble! It’s not fair! These sentiments are heard at my house numerous times during a given a month. P’s neurotypical sibling tells me frequently that I never make P do chores, I never make P help with mealtimes, and I never punish P. I know that that is not true; however, in the midst of these teenage tantrums, I find myself doing a mental inventory. Is P getting away with something when I should have intervened? Was I easier on P when a stricter consequence was warranted?
P’s brother, D, is an active 14-year old high school student. D is a bright vocal young man who is especially talented in school. Academics have come quickly to D. He is athletic and has a growing circle of friends and acquaintances. His outlook on life is black and white, right or wrong with no questions asked. He is quick to make judgments and decisions. I do admire the fact that D can stick with his opinion. He isn’t one to change his mind once a decision has been made. So, you can see where D would butt heads with P. This keeps my husband and me in check making sure we are giving each boy what they need.
I want to share my four tips for helping to make sure the neurotypical siblings feel valued, respected, and heard in the family hierarchy. Special needs children can take a toll on our time, energy, emotions, and finances. It can be draining, exhausting, and lonely. We all have tough days when there is little left in the tank to give to anyone.
Tip #1: Check in daily. Make sure you are 100% present for your neurotypical child whether it is during meal prep or commuting to practice or quiet time before bed. Communicate with your child that their feelings, emotions, problems are heard by you.
Tip #2: Encourage your neurotypical child to have their thing. They have seen their special needs siblings have their fair share of therapies, social groups, doctor visits, and school meetings and it can be easy to feel lost in the shuffle. They deserve to have their thing whether it is a free club at school, music or art lessons, or a sport. You can find out where their passion lies by encouraging them to explore. It can be something that they can be a part of and feel proud!
Tip #3: Go places together. I’m not talking about a vacation or a weekend get-a-away. That has the potential for fun written all over it. I’m talking your day to day activities. Invite your neurotypical child to take a walk around the block with you or catch a movie. Or maybe you can go together to the farmers market. Yes, it can be tricky to do if finding care for the special needs sibling is needed. However, you can be creative!
Tip #4: Compliment your neurotypical child. The smallest victories are huge victories for our special need children. I challenge you to seek out opportunities to praise or compliment your neurotypical child. All children deserve to hear compliments. Maybe you think they know, but when was the last time you said excellent job, I’m proud of you, even I love you? Good grade, school accomplishments, kindness towards others, going the extra mile to help a friend.
These tips are a challenge at our house. There are weeks I am better at this than others. I know that D deserves my best just like his brother. This is my reminder to myself that I am human and each day is a new opportunity given to me and my boys. As I strive to help them grow into kind and caring individuals, I tell them I love you and I will love you for a thousand more.
All my best to you,