Part Two – Helping Special Needs Siblings Thrive

Last week I shared three ways our family uses to help our daughters thrive in a home with siblings with bipolar, ADHD and medical problems. This week’s post digs in to the more internal mindset and decisions we can make as parents to provide some sense of “normal” (whatever that is!) to our “normal”* children. And honestly, this is the part that stings whenever I consider it. Mostly because it stirs up resentment, fear and multitudes of other challenging feelings when I do.

Even kids who love each other need a break!

1. Let them go. We all have to let our kids go out in to the world eventually. Siblings of special needs kids might need that earlier than most. Why? Because being with mom often also means being with their high-needs siblings. In order to give them a normal life, therefore, we have to find ways to let them go in to safe, supportive environments. I’m not talking about ignoring them or emotionally shutting them out (see Part 1). But if we involve them in church groups, service or sports groups, where they can be their own person and form healthy bonds with other adults, we give them permission to have their own lives. To have confidence in their unique strengths. To have the attention we simply can not give them as much as we long to.

2. Do our own grief work. Plugging my younger two kids in to other things they love breaks my heart. It means having them, with their playfulness, normal range of emotion, and snuggliness out of the house, leaving me with only the most challenging kids. It means being in the place I least prefer and that can make me really mad. And lonely. And resentful. Unless I actively grieve in healthy ways, and process with professionals and supportive friends. If I don’t do the internal grief work, the pent up resentment and exhaustion get to me, and I take it out on my other two kids – a position in which they should never have to be. Especially as children. How we deal with grief and forgiveness in all our relationships as special needs parents needs a whole book… see below if you’d like to help that happen!

3. Trust them to God. Not in a cop-out kind of way, but in a “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted in the heavens… and the earth” kind of way. He’s got my little girls’ back, so to speak. And I have to trust that He’s not going to leave them bereft of hope and a genuine life that’s worth living. I have to believe that He hasn’t given them this life to quench their vitality and joy. Just as the hardest things in my own life have made me stronger and crafted a story by which I can encourage others, so it is in their lives as well. All that they are going through is creating their testimony and story… of how God showed up for them, uniquely, within the life of a special needs family.

(*“normal” = the comic way to describe our quirky kids who don’t technically have special needs…)

What is the hardest part for you in helping your “normal” kids thrive?

I’d love to share your story in my new book on forgiveness and special needs families. Come check out my short questionnaire if you’d like to participate!

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