Sunday, November 28, 2010
Again, siblings of kids with unusual needs are in the news. Today NPR broadcast "Siblings of Sick Kids Learn a Life Lesson Early" which you can listen to here. This brief report is about the issues that face families where there is a child with a difference. These differences include chronic disease, mental illness, and developmental disabilities.
When young, siblings may feel "caught outside the bubble of the family world" where the medical and social concerns and crises of a sib might "trump regular kid concerns" like birthday parties and sleepovers. Although one might expect kids to sometimes feel neglected or jealous, in the long run research shows that they show a strong capacity for empathy well beyond their years. And this empathy ultimately informs many of their life decisions.
The broadcast showcases a support group at Vanderbilt University that allows teens to come together to share their experiences, concerns and worries with other families and peers. The findings may come as a relief to parents who feel they may have "almost missed (the healthy child's) life," as one mother admits. Those of us in the professions that know and care about such families need to advocate for more attention to the concerns and support for the special qualities of the siblings. Often the next generation of caregivers and professionals come from their ranks.
image via Google from Corbisimages.com