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Siblings, the Hidden Trauma

Francie Khalaf by Francie Khalaf Additional Needs

Francie Khalaf

Francie Khalaf

I am a wife and mother of two children with cerebral palsy. I believe in making lemonade out of lemons

Siblings, the Hidden Trauma

“I wonder if there will be lasting effects, will she resent me for taking her to so many of his therapy appointments through the early days of her life? When I look back at photos I see so many of them in doctor’s offices, was her childhood innocent enough?” Guilt plagues any mother and when you throw in the complexity of a special needs twin the guilt is doubled.

Quinn and Sawyer (5) had a complicated first few months of life. They both became extremely ill, fought for their lives and found themselves with lasting effects. Since Quinn was an infant she has been scared of the doctor. Her anxiety leading into unpredictable situations can be tough to manage. Quinn has not slept through the night in 3 years and we have tried everything to help her sleep. We have seen multiple therapists and specialists to help but have not had any luck.

For years she cried and screamed anytime she had to go to the doctor.

She would fight going to the doctor. I know many kids are like this and that isn’t what makes it so tough. What makes it tough is the anxiety that lingers after. After a visit with the doctor she will worry to the point of having nightmares. Thankfully she does not have to see the doctor often but when she does we have to explain over and over on the way to the doctor exactly what will happen. She has learned to advocate for herself at the doctor. Now she is beginning to have anxiety about her brother.

Unfortunately, she has seen many situations where Sawyer gets a blood draw or has to do something at the doctor he doesn’t like. She’s seen him get sick dozens of times and need a hospital visit. She has seen him have seizures and had to be handed off quickly to a neighbor with out a goodbye while we put Sawyer in the ambulance. This is a lot for a child to handle and it’s more than she should.

How can we possibly shelter them from the trauma that we endure as parents?

Quinn is now five and finally able to articulate how she is feeling and tell me about her dreams. A week ago she was sleeping in bed with me at my grandmas house and she woke me up saying “No! No! No!”. She explained to me the next morning that she had a dream she was having surgery. She has woke me up last night because she had a very scary dream but didn’t want to talk about it. How do we as parents help our children that are simply bystanders in a complicated life? How can we possibly shelter them from the trauma that we endure as parents? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know that we have tried accommodating her. We are very thorough in explanations when going somewhere unpredictable. We spend time discussing anything her brother is going through and we give her time individually to play without her brother and to just be a kid.

I guess the reason I have gone through all of this explanation is because its easy to forget the struggles of the healthy child. They often make sacrifices for their medically fragile sibling and many times their needs come second to that of their sibling. It’s a complicated relationship and one that often comes with a lot of emotions.


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