About a year ago I wrote about a brutally and beautifully honest conversation that I had with my younger child about their brother’s developmental disability. A wise friend commented that our conversation would be one of many “periodic check-ins.” My friend was right.

Not surprisingly, the last few weeks have created a need for more conversation.

A couple of months ago we started toilet training our son for the umpteenth time. It required intense amounts of attention, all landing during the winter holiday break, keeping us close to home and all eyes and hands on our boy (and his laundry). While he’s made great progress, apparently his younger sibling “had enough of it,” according to the sign on inside of the bathroom door:

bathroom sign

In my defense, good ergonomics are a critical part of his success, and he’s in the bathroom every 30 minutes, so it’s less work to just leave the potty seat and footstool in place. But I get it. Younger sib puts up with a lot, and this was the last straw. Needless to say, we’re trying harder.

Then there was the breakfast table comment they made after all of the media attention that I have been getting these last couple weeks after the Huffington Post article about his complex needs. They had seen a copy of the care map on the laptop in the kitchen. “Mom, you know that web thingie that you made? Did you know that the G is for Gabe, and that he’s in the middle? Just sayin’.” Point taken.

It’s so much easier to deal with this now that we’re talking openly about it. I can imagine that not too long ago, sibling frustrations were never voiced and parental guilt just festered. Not too long ago, we didn’t acknowledge it either. But giving everyone’s experience some air and light is so much easier than denying it.

I’m so curious to hear what others are doing to support all their kids.

"Mommy, me and Daddy" according to my daughter  (age 3?)
“Mommy, me and Daddy” according to my youngest (age 3?)

Published by Cristin Lind

Facilitator, consultant, speaker for better health and care through patient-professional partnership. Passionate about helping change agents build courage and agency. She/her.

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  1. The sib issues are so close to my heart. We have always taken a straight foward, talk openly about everything. My dear daughter, now a teen, has had so many times made her opinion known, and we always try to really listen. Unfortunately, as many of you know, almost almost all the time the world is revolving around our child with the higheR, more complicated needs. So, my elder daughter found great humor in a t-shirt I came home with for her sister. “The world really does revolve around me”. We have our serious talks and we have our lighter moments. It is so nice to know we all walk the same road a bit. It took ages for my elder daughter to get over her sisters accidents in public. . Or having to change plans to accommodate yet practicing a new skill. If you ask her about it now though, she’d say it was worth all the effort (well she might say “bother”), because a sister that can do things independently is amazing.

    PS if you can read the book “Rules” with your daughter, you might both get a kick out of it, we loved it for many reasons.

  2. There’s actually a sign available that starts: Attention Superheroes and reminds them to flush, wash hands, etc. It’s an accessible way to handle the subject–and might solve your needs without him feeling hurt!

    1. Cute sign! My son is not aware that anything he does could possibly be annoying. (He also cannot read!) Strangely, my daughter doesn’t often seem frustrated with her brother–more often she’s frustrated with us, if that makes sense. But you bring up a good point, which is that we can facilitate some of the inter-sibling frustrations when they happen by making things less personal and also by keeping a sense of humor. Good reminder.

      1. Love the t-shirt! I am really enjoying the straight-forwardness of our relationship. I’m sure it will change and there will be periods that are more uncomfortable. It does feel good to know that we all walk the same road. Thanks for sharing.

  3. We talk a lot more about disability in our house than we used to, and I think this helps our daughter come to terms with our son. We talk about the different types of disability – physical or mental – and the paralympics was a great starting point for that – ‘That’s the olympics A would be in isn’t it Mummy?’ Yes I said, trying not to cry. Allowing our daughter to vent her frustrations has been hard for us as parents, but very important for E as his sister and, whilst I’m sure it will keep recurring, she’s a lot happier in her life, and in celebrating A, than she used to be. In addition, my husband and I make sure that we carve out time for her where we had probably been a bit lax before so she now has activities she goes to that are just for her, and time where it’s just her and us, or her and one parent and that too I think has helped. Life is quite chaotic with a disabled sibling, and I think E has benefitted from her own quiet time. Thanks for your post.

  4. My daughter who is now an adult never voiced any opinions about having a diabled sibling when she was growing up having thought it was not valid or for fear she would hurt my feelings. It came to light as she became an adult and it made me very sad I had neither taken the time or thought how she felt. I would encourage all parents to do this early on.

    1. Debbie, it’s really brave of you to share that, so thank you. And clearly while its never too early, it’s never too late either, I’m guessing. Has your daughter expressed whether talking about it now is helpful? I’d be so curious for her take on things as well. If you think this post would be a good door-opener for a conversation, please feel free to share it and invite her to comment.

  5. Your post was timely. My daughter just expressed a similar feeling–which she seldom does. Seeing your post prompted me to write and think about it.

  6. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post

  7. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just
    wanted to say great blog!

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