Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
Normal children are impacted both positively and negatively by their disabled siblings. On the positive side, normal children learn to be altruistic: to put aside their own needs and take care of their disabled siblings. Caring for their needy sibling helps them develop closer family ties, teach them to be sensitive and caring, and allow them to be accepting of people who are different.
The undue demands place upon the normal siblings of disabled children mature them and teach them to be independent at an early age. Unfortunately, the negative impact of having to live with disability in the home often trumps the positive, because these normal children live in such a stressful environment that eventually emotionally taxes even the most resilient among them Aside from the stress of having to care for their needy siblings, they end up feeling neglected by parents who must constantly attend to the needs of their disabled children. Often isolated from their disabled sibling, normal children struggle with feelings of resentment, anger, shame, embarrassment, and self-doubt.
Due to the debilitating impact of disability on the normal children in the family, it is imperative that parents and health care professionals do all that they can to address their needs and help them learn to cope better. There are many things parents can do to attend to the needs of their normal children such as allowing them to pursue activities that would allow them to develop and mature like other normal children. They could also provide and protect these children their own private space, spend quality time with them, and encourage them to talk to them about how they feel about their role in the family. Difficult as it may be, it is important for parents to seriously consider the option of placing their disabled children in a group home. It is also important for parents to prepare for the future financial and legal aspects of caring for the disabled child. Along with the normal siblings, parents must determine what role siblings would play in the lives of their disabled children when they are too old to care for them.
Health care professionals must include the entire family, including normal siblings, and not just the disabled individual and the parents when discussing the disability, treatment, the expectations the disability will place upon the family as a whole. Health care communities must look into providing support groups for the normal children of families with disability. These children need a place where they can express themselves and be validated.
When the helping community and parents work together to meet the needs of the normal children, they help them thrive in healthy ways, and protect them from suffering the long term negative impact of living around their disabled siblings.
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