by Derenda Timmons Schubert, Ph.D.
I would like to introduce families to a book that might help address issues related to sibling rivalry. All sibling relationships can have their good times and their rocky times. In the book, Siblings Without Rivalry, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, parents are provided with an easy to read, down-to-earth approach to managing sibling conflict. Plus, there are many entertaining cartoons illustrating every day parent/sibling experiences. One particular aspect of the book is "What do you do with sibling rivalry when one of the siblings has a disability." The following are suggestions provided by the authors:
Focus on children's ABILITIES rather than DISABILITIES; Encourage ABILITIES.
ACKNOWLEDGE ALL of children's FEELINGS about their siblings with special needs. Sometimes it can be difficult to respond empathetically when one sibling is making negative remarks about the child with a special need. However, when children know that they can express the full range of their emotional experience, the emotion is less likely to transform into behavior (i.e. ignoring a sibling, hitting a sibling) or physical complaints (i.e. stomachaches, headaches).
Resist the urge to compare children even when those COMPARISONS involve positive comments. Such comparisons can make a child feel less than unique.
Resist the tendency to place children in ROLES. It is likely that one child in the family will possess special talent in an area. It is important to encourage, support, and celebrate this child's accomplishment; while at the same time, sending the message to other children in the family that such experiences are for everyone not just those who excel in the area. For example, phrases such as the following need to be kept in check: "He's our athlete," "She never gives us any problem," "He's the smart one."
Instead of worrying about spending EQUAL time with children, focus on individual needs and showing children that they are loved UNIQUELY. For instance, tell a child why you think he is a terrific person.
I hope that you find this information helpful.