Supporting siblings of children with a disability

Having a child diagnosed with disability is an adjustment for the whole family, including siblings.

It’s only natural that siblings will experience many new and mixed emotions about their brother or sister’s diagnosis and therapy. With a few simple strategies, you can help your children adapt and thrive within their unique family environment.

Talk about their feelings

Siblings will understandably feel a huge range of emotions. They might feel fiercely protective of their brother or sister, confused about what’s taking place, or fearful that they will develop the disability too. It’s common for children to sometimes feel resentful or angry about the extra attention their brother or sister receives, leading them to act out or withdraw from the family. 

Every child is unique, and will experience their own emotional journey differently. Look for opportunities to talk with them about how they are feeling. Let them know it’s okay to sometimes feel angry, upset or worried. Put coping strategies in place to help them manage their emotions in a healthy way, such as using drawings to express their feelings.

Equip them with information

Like you, your child probably has lots of questions about their brother or sister’s situation. You can help by providing them with age-appropriate information about the disability and what it might mean for the family’s everyday life and future. Having ways to explain the situation to their friends will help your child adjust easier and feel more comfortable with any changes taking place.

Remember, our Specialist Educators are here to help! They are experts at providing information to children—including children with disability and their siblings and friends—in a way they can understand and engage with. 

Connect with a support network

This might include your extended family, community and friendship groups, and disability or healthcare agencies like Firstchance. A robust support network can give you and your children practical help, emotional support and somewhere to turn when you need advice or a listening ear.

Our collaborative early childhood intervention team offer practical and expert care for families, including siblings, so you can work better together, feel confident in your child’s therapy and plan for your family’s future. You can also read more about our SibsRule program

Contact us to discuss our holistic support options for families, including siblings.