Interview: Christine Frisbee on Healthy Siblings of Disabled Kids
Posted on July 30, 2008 at 8:00 am
The healthy siblings of disabled or sick children are often “the forgotten ones” as understandably pre-occupied parents devote their attention to the child whose needs seem most pressing. Author Christine Frisbee lets these siblings tell their own stories in Day By Day, Children tell their journeys of faith and determination living with a sick sister or brother. The book shows how siblings of seriously ill or challenged children can learn to embrace the challenges of their exceptional situation, ultimately allowing them to transform into strong, spiritual, and caring people and gives parents some resources for making sure that these children do not feel neglected or guilty. I interviewed Ms. Frisbee via email.
What can parents do to make the sibling who is not disabled feel that he or she deserves time and attention?
Although it is easy to think that everyone in the family is adjusted to having a sick child in the family, often the siblings are quietly coping. The reason they are quiet is because they do not want to make the issues worse or make their parents feel more overwhelmed than they sometimes can.
Therefore the best thing to do is to talk about the sibling’s feelings and make sure that they know you, as a parent, have their best interests at stake too. Spend separate time with the children who are not disabled and tell them you appreciate their patience and help every day. Explain that just because you need to give so much attention to the disabled child does not mean that you care about them any less, but that you admire and respect their help and love.
Is “Survivor Guilt” a problem?
It is a fact that survivor guilt is a big problem in families. Children are very happy that they are not the one to have the disability or serious illness, but with that said, they also feel very guilty that they are the one who continues with a more normal life. Neither child understands why illness came to one of them and not the other.
Do the siblings sometimes act out to get more attention? Do they wish they were sick or disabled?
It is extremely common for siblings to act out when they have a sick sister or brother. They sometimes do not realize how much they are misbehaving. Often they know they are acting out and continue because they are angry about the misbalance of attention within the family. When they see their sick sibling getting more attention they wonder if it is worth it to have something happen to them so they get more attention, compassion and gifts from friends and relatives who want the sick child to feel better.