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Siblings Rock! Week Two: How we feel…

by: Elizabeth Thorndike

Before I launch into these next few posts, it is important to tell you that they might be tender and may even trigger feelings you may or may not have dealt with. I believe as parents, we do the best that we can. Sometimes things are just hard no matter how much we try to balance it all. Sometimes, there is no great answer, and just acknowledging the “hard” with our kiddos, and inviting them into that conversation, can be healing. Parents may try to treat their children fairly by spending equal amounts of time with each child. However, when a child has developmental delays or significant medical needs, maintaining balance is extremely difficult.

We see you!

We have often been at this place. It is a place of helplessness. Many times we have tried to balance it all with our own kiddos, only to fail.  I have experienced such guilt when I try to make things “even” and it all falls through. I have sat in defeat so many times, but there is hope.

These articles are by no means a bridge to guilt and shame, but rather a network of facts and ideas gathered over time. Thanks for joining us…

Now… every family situation is different, and the needs and size of the family can affect what each sibling experiences. Below are a few commons feelings that siblings to medically fragile and/or special needs kiddos feel:

  • Guilt – Guilt can affect siblings in many different ways. Some siblings feel guilty for not being the one with the “different” needs. Some experience jealousy about the quantity of time a parent spends caring for their sibling, then they carry guilt for that jealousy.
  • Pressure – Some siblings feel pressure to excel in things because they can. It is important to note that a lot of the time this pressure is not placed on them by parents but is rather their own self-doing. They could be high achieving to appear like a typical family, or they could be trying to excel because they feel their parents need that. A lot of times, siblings can be fiercely independent. They do not or will not ask for help when they need it and feel more responsibility at a younger age.

excelling sibling resized

  • Anxiety and embarrassment – Wondering about what others might think of their family situation can cause anxiety for siblings. When they are out in public with their sibling, they might feel anxiety worrying about what their sibling might do. They may even feel embarrassed at the behavior of their sibling. Sometimes, siblings also feel like they cannot be honest about how they feel in fear of offending a parent.

mom and son sibling resized

  • Loneliness or feeling forgotten – Some siblings just miss having one-on-one time with their parents. With lack of respite care workers in society these days and the careful attention needed for a special needs sibling, parents might be pulled away to provide care. Siblings might find themselves lonely and begin isolating themselves. They might also avoid inviting people over because of their situation.

lonely sibling resized

Now the above are real feelings and, through chatting with my own typical kiddos and others, they are accurate. Not all siblings experience all these feelings, but it is important to know that they can. Knowledge is everything, and with it, you can find a platform from which to create conversation and a plan that works in your own family situation. Please, resist the urge to go down the path of guilt if your typical kiddo has felt any of these feelings. Have grace with yourself. We are all doing the best we can. This is just informational, yet so important to consider.

On another beautiful note, these amazing siblings also experience incredible feelings associated with their family journey. Many siblings report feeling incredibly proud of their special needs sibling and have great admiration for all that they walk. In fact, it is because of their journey that many of these siblings choose a field of study that involves compassion.

compassion resized

These siblings in a lot of ways have more empathy than your average adult and see the world differently because of their special needs siblings.

Everything has beauty in it! Next week we will chat more about the amazing and beautiful things that come from being a sibling to a special need’s kiddo. I promise you… God has a special plan for this group of individuals. They are just as much a part of the journey as the parents. In some ways, even more!!!!

about us

Meet the Thorndikes - Moment to Moment Family

Hi there! We are the crazy cool parents to 5 amazing and crazy cool kiddos. But, first, we are Dan and Elizabeth Thorndike – married 15 years and living this life one moment at a time. We have a full and blessed life, but we are clumsily tackling a journey we never foresaw ourselves living.

Read our story of how this journey all started in our blog post titled:
“The Beginning. Our Special Needs Journey”


Elizabeth Thorndike

Introverted extrovert – that’s how I describe myself. I absolutely love being a mama but never knew how hard it would be, nor how deeply I could love.



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