Any parent will be catapulted into a world of uncertainty as soon as they’re told they have a child who is born with physical and emotional difficulties.
Over the years, my father spent a lot more time with me, driving me to my annual hospital appointments. I think my mum took me to my weekly physiotherapy appointments, but when I wasn’t going to physiotherapy, or my yearly hospital appointments, I was treated the same as my siblings.
And although now looking back I didn’t know differences were being made, it’s clear they were. I used to get sweets before every hospital visit, which my siblings never got. Going on those appointments felt like my parents were getting the job done. It was something I endured and something my siblings put up with.
Making a difference between siblings can manifest itself in many ways, and although outsiders may not always see the way some parents behave, children will see the differences. Children born into families whose culture is central to their lives fall into this category, but in other families, parents may feel forced to behave differently with one child, particularly if that child deals with physical or emotional difficulties.
They may also choose to make allowances for that child because they feel guilty, or responsible.
Children will always have to deal with different things but being treated differently in childhood will always manifest itself into negative adult behaviour and sibling rivalry. There will be times when a parent needs to spend more time with a child with special needs, but otherwise it’s important siblings are treated equally.
It is up to parents to make sure all their children understand, particularly where they have a child who has special needs, so there is no jealousy between the siblings. That didn’t happen with us.