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Ways to Support the Sibling of a Child with Academic, Social or Behavioral Challenges


Children with academic, social and behavioral issues may require extra parental attention and time, meaning their siblings can go through childhood feeling left out, ignored, or unappreciated. This doesn’t have to be your family’s reality. Provide support to your other children by following these tips:

Have open conversations.

As kids get older and begin to notice differences between themselves and their sibling, they will start to ask questions. The best thing a parent can do in this situation is be honest. Don’t brush off your children’s questions. Instead, address them head on and openly discuss the condition of your child who is struggling. It is essential that you help a sibling to understand that the behavior of his or her sister or brother is due to a real condition or issue, so she can help other children to understand too. This will help to reduce conflict in the home as well as potential bullying by others.

Set boundaries.

When kids aren’t getting enough attention at home, they can begin to act out. As parents, it can be tough to discipline a child who is only acting out to get your attention, but it is necessary. If you decide not to respond to mis-behavior, a sibling will think this is the proper way to get you to notice him or her, and the misdirected behavior will continue. It’s important to talk to him about why he may be feeling ignored and why the behavior is wrong, so you can acknowledge the emotional motivation behind the action. It is also important to provide the sibling better methods of communication when he is feeling the need for more attention - like coming up with a secret word or gesture that signals moments when he really does need your undivided attention.

Spend time together as a family.

Every family can benefit from spending time together, but especially when there is a child who is struggling and other children involved. Find activities the whole family can do together, such as going on a nature walk, playing a board game, or singing your favorite songs. Whatever it is, be sure to include every member of the family to show each of your children that it is possible to have fun together. This helps break down the “me vs. everyone else” mentality that siblings of children with challenges can often develop when they feel alone. You can even turn this family time into educational opportunities where the sibling can offer their support. For example, the sibling of a student who struggles with dyslexia could spend an evening reading aloud from her favorite book. This helps to build a team approach to any challenges a child may face and strengthen the bond between siblings.

Celebrate accomplishments.

When children remember to clean their bedrooms without you asking or bring home an A+ on their math exam, be sure to celebrate as a family. These tiny accomplishments can sometimes be overlooked by parents who may be overwhelmed by the needs of the child who’s struggling, but the sibling also needs to be acknowledged and rewarded. Try to find time to attend your child’s swim meet or softball game so you can sit in the stands and cheer louder than any other parent. The more your children are celebrated by you, the greater they will feel about themselves and their relationship with you, too.

Talk to the guidance counselor.

If your children are struggling, talk to the guidance counselor at their school about any support groups for the siblings of children who have higher needs in the classroom and at home. Once they meet other kids who are going through the same issues, they won’t feel as alone, so this can be very beneficial.

You are bound to encounter some tough times as a family with a child who has issues related to ADHD, learning disorders or processing disorders. But remember, children with siblings who face extra challenges will grow up to be compassionate and understanding individuals.

To learn more about the Brain Balance Program and our whole-child approach, contact us online or find a center near you.

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