Let the Siblings Care

Miriam Gwynne by Miriam Gwynne Additional Needs

Miriam Gwynne

Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle a...

Have you ever felt guilty if you do but guilty if you don’t too? As a special needs parent this feeling is all too common with me.

I feel guilty for giving medication that is causing side effects but guilty if I don’t give it as the original condition would get worse.

I feel guilty about sending my child to school when he can’t tell me if everything is ok but guilty for keeping him home when he needs to be around others and learning.

I feel guilty for having a messy house but guilty if it’s clean because then it means I haven’t been spending time with my children.

But one of the worse ones of all is regarding siblings.

I feel guilty when my daughter isn’t bonding with her brother or showing signs she loves him but then I feel equally guilty if she’s caring for him like an adult.

The other evening, I was cleaning the bath after my son (it has to be cleaned right away for reasons I don’t need to go into) and he was lying on his bed waiting for the next part of his bedtime routine. I could see him but I just had to complete the urgent task I was doing first. He was safe and happy and supervised.

Then I heard my daughter’s tender voice and snapped this on my phone.

She knew his routine. She knew what he wanted and understood his nonverbal communication. She saw I was busy and stepped in.

It was just a bedtime story but it was also so much more.

I stepped back and let her carry on. It was a beautiful moment and I refused to feel guilty that she was caring for a sibling with complex needs. She was just reading to her brother because he can’t read himself.

I chose to see it as a brother and sister moment rather than caring.

And in that moment, I lost the guilt I have carried for years when I see my daughter caring for her complex needs brother. The guilt that has crippled me when she pushes his wheelchair, fetches his medication, strokes his cheek as he cries and holds his hand when he’s in hospital.

Sibling are meant to be together; they are meant to have a strong bond, fall out, make up, play together, and share experiences. When my daughter cares for her brother, meets his needs, helps with his routine, soothes him and advocates for him it’s because she is just being the sister that she would have been anyway even if he wasn’t disabled.

It’s ok to have siblings care. It’s ok when they step in when you are tired and need support. It’s ok when they speak up for their sibling, cuddle them, support them and read to them. It’s not abuse to allow them to help like that.

You are not damaging them or hurting them.

In fact, it’s the absolute opposite! There is so much empathy, understanding, kindness, gentleness and helpfulness to be learnt from letting siblings help. It builds their self-esteem, makes them feel useful, gives them purpose, bonds them and helps them feel secure. It allows them opportunities to serve, soothe and grow. It brings maturity, a sense of belonging and strength of character. It builds resilience, courage and love.

So, drop the guilt when siblings step in to help. You are not harming them in any way. You are giving opportunities to develop them.

Let them be a sibling. Let them love. Let them care.

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