Family Support: Sibling Support

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Sibling Support

Having a child with a GRIN disorder has an impact on all aspects of your life and therefore also on your family. No matter how hard you try as parents to keep your grief and worries about your GRIN child far from your other children, they always notice your emotions and worries much more than you are aware of.

Each child then reacts differently to a sibling with a GRIN disorder and handles the resulting situation differently. 

Some children respond by rebelling: after all, negative attention is also attention. Sometimes children can even accuse their parents that all their attention is focused only on the child with the GRIN disorder and not on them. This can of course be very hard for you and even hurtful to hear. Especially since as a parent, you always do your utmost to give all your children the same amount of love and attention. But no matter how hard you try, there will inevitably be times when your healthy child/children will be lacking (immediate) attention. After all, there are only two parents and there are only 24 hours in a day!

Alternatively, children can respond to the situation by becoming very withdrawn. They try to be as nice as possible, behave as well as possible and try to demand as little attention for themselves as they can. After all, they see that mom and dad are having such a hard time already with caring for the sibling with the GRIN disorder that they do not want to burden their parents any further. Children can even take on a caretaker’s role towards their mom and dad and / or towards their siblings to try to unburden their parents as much as possible. It is important to free your healthy child of such feelings and to have them demand their share of attention as well. 

Some children can even develop functional pain complaints. These are real and sometimes very serious physical complaints, for which there is no underlying physical cause. It is the body’s way of finding a physical outlet for all the stress and tension that the child obviously cannot cope with. In this respect (severe) headaches, earaches, tummy aches and even paralysis have been reported. 

It is therefore very important to be aware of the above and to be aware that this can also happen to your children. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to avoid problems:

First and foremost, talk openly and honestly with your children and explain the situation with their sibling to them at an age appropriate level. Explain to them that due to the GRIN disorder, their sibling needs a lot of extra care and attention. Also explain that due to the GRIN disorder, their sibling needs to visit doctors frequently, has various weekly therapy sessions and may even need to be admitted to the hospital regularly. On top of all that, mom and dad have to do a lot of research into GRIN disorders as well and often face a huge administrative burden when applying for medical, physical or educational support such as medications, a wheelchair or a communication device, for example. Explain to your children that due to all this, sometimes mom and dad may have a little less time for them, but that this does not mean that you love them any less or find them any less important. 

Agree on another time with your children when they can have your undivided attention and really commit to this. Arrange for someone else to care for your GRIN child and go do something fun together. While going to the movies, the zoo or a museum or going shopping together is totally awesome, it doesn’t always have to be such a grand gesture. Baking cookies together, watching a favorite movie or series together, playing a board game together, helping your children with their homework or unexpectedly coming to watch their football training is equally great and highly appreciated. 

If possible, you should try to alternate the care for your child with GRIN disorder with your partner or with a professional caretaker. This way you can also create regular opportunities to spend quality time with your other children. 

Alternatively, you could also look into options for (extended) overnight care for your GRIN child, often referred to as respite care. This takes place for example on weekends or holidays and gives the other family members the opportunity to refuel and to spent time together. This could also be an opportunity to engage in family activities that are complicated or even impossible to engage in with the GRIN child. In some countries the costs of this kind of care may be covered through government subsidies or through the GRIN child’s health insurance. 

In some countries there are special support programs available for siblings of a care intensive child. It gives children the opportunity to share their feelings and experiences with other children who are in a similar situation. Also, siblings may receive counseling on how to deal with their often-complicated family situation. 

Finally, it may also be advisable to engage a children’s psychologist to support the siblings of your child with a GRIN disorder. Your general practitioner or pediatrician can inform you about this and, if necessary, can arrange for a referral.

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