Support networks for your sibling child
As a parent you play a key role in supporting siblings and you are their most important supporter. Others can also offer useful and invaluable support too. It can really help your sibling child to know that others are able and willing to support them when they need it.
Why it’s important for others to support siblings
Provides timely support
It ensures that your child has timely support when they need it. For example, a teacher who knows about your home circumstances can listen to a sibling’s concerns during school time. This can prevent small worries becoming bigger issues.
It can help siblings feel less isolated with any difficulties they face. For example, joining a sibling support group means that siblings know they are not the only one with a brother or sister who is disabled or has additional needs.
Helps with coping
It can give siblings opportunities to learn new ways of coping with their problems. For example, talking to a social worker, school nurse or a supportive family member.
‘When we talked to her about the idea of telling her teacher about her brother, I was surprised how keen she was for this to happen. It made me realize that she needed others to know and that others could help her.’
How to create support networks for siblings
Hand of support
Make a hand of support. Draw around your sibling child’s hand on a piece of card. On each finger help them write the name and phone number of someone they can talk to – a grandparent, school friend, teacher, family friend. Let your child know that it’s OK for them to talk to other people if they need to about issues affecting them as a sibling.
Support in school
- Tell your child’s class teacher about your home situation. Include your sibling child in this discussion and openly acknowledge that there may be times when your child needs to talk to their teacher during school time.
- All schools have pastoral care support and many have school counsellors. Ask for their help if your sibling child is having problems with their wellbeing.
- Inform school if there have been recent changes to your home situation e.g. a new diagnosis, a hospital stay, behavioural problems in your disabled child, relationship breakdown.
- Talk to your child’s head teacher about identifying siblings and having a sibling group at school.
- At parents’ evening ask your sibling child’s teacher to acknowledge the role your child has as a sibling and to celebrate the positive aspects of being a sibling of a disabled child.
Extended family support
Encourage other family members to spend time with your sibling child. This gives your child their attention as well as an opportunity to talk if they need to. Read our page on grandparents and relatives.
Find out if there are any sibling support groups in your area. Sibling groups give siblings the opportunity to meet other siblings, share their feelings and experiences and learn new ways of coping with sibling issues. Talk to the SENDCO at your child’s school about the possibility of setting up a sibling group in school. Sibs can support the school with training and resources for the group.
Online sibling support
At Sibs we run YoungSibs – a UK wide online support service for siblings under 18 who have a brother or sister who is disabled or has additional needs. It provides information about different conditions and strategies for coping with sibling issues. YoungSibs has a letters section for siblings to receive personalised responses to their questions. It also has a safe online chat area for siblings to talk to other siblings under 18 in the UK, moderated by Sibs’ staff.
At Sibs we have a moderated online support and discussion forum for adult siblings of disabled people aged 18.