An astute and loving grandmother provided that response to last week’s post about parents of special needs children: Unsung Heroes. But that grandma was right. The siblings of special needs kids can easily be forgotten. And they, too, deserve to be celebrated.
Even the best of parents have limited capacity. We’re all human. And caring for a special needs child can be all-consuming physically and emotionally. It’s easy to assume the other children are on auto-pilot and doing fine.
The siblings. The ones who are healthy, stay out of trouble, do their homework, and consider themselves part of the family team. Often, they don’t rock the boat. They don’t complain. Many assume duties far beyond their years. Yet they are still children, with their own unique needs. How can we love and encourage them?
Are you the grandparent, aunt, uncle, or special friend of a family with a special needs child? A beautiful way to come alongside the parents is by giving some focused attention to the siblings. While you’re certainly not a replacement for the parent, your love can be a wonderful supplement.
Be intentional about planning one-one-one outings with each sibling. Nothing says “you matter” like time spent together.
Tell that child the things that you treasure about them. Share what you see as their unique gifts and abilities. Affirm the unselfish ways you see them love and care for their special needs sibling. Better yet, put all that in writing!
Make an effort to attend their events, games, and recitals. Celebrate their successes and victories.
Are you the parent of a special needs child? Here are some simple tips gathered from other special needs families about ways to celebrate the siblings:
Be intentional daily about having focused, one-on-one time with each child, even if that’s just 5 minutes a day. Take the time to ask questions and really listen to the answers.
Plan special, longer one-on-one outings when you can.
Write an affirming letter to each of your children. It’s something every parent should do. And none will benefit more than those “low maintenance” kids. Children of all ages long to be told what their parents value and cherish about them. Take the time to express your love in writing and you’ll be giving your child words that can be read and re-read. Words that matter forever.
Families with special needs children are heroes. You really do deserve a parade! Better yet, you deserve tangible, simple, loving acts from your friends and families. Let it begin with me.