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Ways to Support Your Child Who Does Not have CdLS


As a CdLS sibling myself, I remember the joy of growing up with my little sister with CdLS. I also remember the stress and challenges that having a CdLS sibling brought to our family. Having a child with special needs is a family issue, and it impacts the lives of each person within the family unit.

Brothers and sisters of a child with CdLS are frequently faced with the challenges that naturally come with having a sibling with special needs, but do not yet have the emotional maturity or abilities to cope with these stressful experiences. While there are many benefits to being raised in a household with a special needs child, it is wise to be mindful of the common struggles that CdLS siblings may face. 

  • Common feelings experienced by CdLS siblings may include:
    • Feeling worried about their sibling, or afraid of losing their sibling 
    • Feeling resentful about having a sibling with special needs 
    • Feeling embarrassed about having a sibling who is different 
    • Feeling pressure to do what their sibling is unable to do 
    • Feeling jealous about the extra time and attention their sibling receives 
    • Feeling guilty about having negative feelings 
    • Feeling guilty about having abilities that their sibling does not have 

Being aware of what your typically developing children are feeling and experiencing is the first step to ensuring that their needs are being met, and that they are adjusting healthily to your current family situation. Here are ways to support your children who do not have CdLS: 

Communicate Regularly: It is essential to talk regularly to your typically developing child about what they are feeling, and what their needs are. Give them permission to talk about emotions that may be uncomfortable, such as guilt or resentment. Create an emotionally safe environment for them to disclose and be honest. 

Let Them Be Children: CdLS siblings often develop many caregiving and nurturing skills at a young age. They learn to change diapers, do the feeding and bathing, and they become natural protectors of their sibling with CdLS. This truly is a wonderful experience, but make sure it is balanced. They are still children themselves, and need to experience the lightheartedness of childhood. Ensure that your children are engaging in common childhood activities…time with friends, sleepovers, and extracurricular activities at school. Be mindful about keeping adult conversations private. Finally, make sure that your expectations of your children are reasonable for their age. 

Provide Ample Attention: It is not uncommon for your child with CdLS to often require extra time, services, and care on a regular basis. Be intentional about providing ample one-on-one time with your other children, and create special traditions that are unique to just you and them. 

Teach Coping Skills: Teach your children how to cope healthily with life when it becomes difficult. Teach them that it is normal to experience stressors from time to time, and then teach them what to do when life becomes stressful. Help them develop ways to express their emotions and self-sooth when they become upset. Journaling, exercising, deep breathing, and family discussions are just a few coping skills to consider teaching your children. If your child is struggling with coping with challenging situations, consider letting them talk to a therapist or a school counselor. 

Model Healthy Self-Care and Coping: The best way to teach your children about healthy coping is to let them see you doing it. Practice healthy self-care strategies in front of them, and utilize open communication and problem solving strategies regularly within your household. You are your child’s best teacher!

Provide Reassurance: Periodically reassure your typically developing children that their sibling with CdLS is receiving appropriate care and services. Highlight the special achievements of your child with CdLS (e.g., walking, language development), and let your children ask questions about the medical, social, and educational services their sibling is receiving. 

Ask for Help: Providing ample support to all of your family members is sometimes difficult, but you do not have to do it alone. Let other trusted individuals play a role in supporting your typically developing children. The CdLS Foundation is always available to provide family support. 

Despite the challenges that CdLS families face, I want to conclude by emphasizing the amazing qualities your typically developing child will develop as a result of having a sibling with CdLS. Children with CdLS siblings are often wise beyond their years. They develop compassion, empathy, maturity, loyalty, gratitude, resilience, and social adeptness. They learn to be patient and accepting of others at a young age, and they are more mindful and empathic of those who are different. Look for these attributes in your typically developing children, and celebrate them. 

Resources for special needs siblings: 

  1. Siblingsupport.org 
  2. www.CdLSusa.org 
  3. Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs (Meyer) 
Find other pages that share the same topic as this page Family-members, a Crucial Resource5 Family-members, a Crucial Resource6
Katie Nikzad-Terhune
Katie Nikzad-Terhune

Ph.D., LCSW, Assistant Professor, Northern Kentucky University, Board of Directors, CdLS Foundation

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Last modified by Gerritjan Koekkoek on 2021/07/04 21:22
Created by Gerritjan Koekkoek on 2018/10/01 11:44

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