Family estrangement is the loss of a previously existing family relationship, where emotional distancing is extensive; where there is little to no communication between individuals for a prolonged period.
Estrangement is one of the most painful of human experiences, primarily because there isn’t always the understanding behind why families, parents, or siblings are estranged.
In my experience, estrangement isn’t always based on physical detachment. Not everyone is in a position to physically leave. Mentally we may detach because of bad parenting, unsupportive behaviour, toxicity and abuse.
There are other reasons why family estrangement occurs: such as personality conflicts, difficult family dynamics, divorce and money issues. Having a child with special needs can sometimes be a contributing factor, but the impact can be lessened by parents bringing their children together so that everyone understands their unique set of circumstances.
From a parent’s point of view, it is difficult to know what’s best or how to deal with raising a child with a physical or mental disability without ignoring the other children, and yet however hard a parent tries, their attention will always turn to the child that struggles. It’s the nature of raising a child with a disability.
To avoid estrangement happening, it’s important parents make time for their children individually. Parents who prioritise spending equal time with their children will help to make their children feel loved and supported. It’s important for children to have continual inclusion and for each child’s needs to be met. Any issues and disagreements between siblings must be handled sensitively. A feeling of injustice, particularly within families, will lead to anger, resentment and estrangement.
It is also important that parents explain to their other children, in a language they will understand, why their sister or brother needs the extra help. When nothing is discussed and their parents’ attention turns to the child that needs the most help, it is inevitable their other children will struggle too.
As a general rule, children are usually happy to go with something once they’ve had it explained to them. I am sure any child would be happy to help their brother or sister, if it means they will get the help they need.