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Having a disabled child is rewarding, but also comes with unique challenges. One of these can be ensuring that your other children also have all the support they need.

Read on for advice on what you can do to help ensure the wellbeing of children with a disabled sibling.

Keep your children updated

As explained in Psychiatry Advisor, it’s important to keep children updated on what’s going on with their disabled brother or sister. Without information about what’s happening, children often imagine things are worse than they actually are.

Read Psychiatry Advisor article on emotional problems facing siblings of disabled children (external link)

Attend a sibling support group

Sibling support groups can provide a great opportunity for children with disabled siblings to talk with people with similar experiences, learn techniques, and establish friendships. In New Zealand, Parent to Parent run SibShop and SibCamp for children aged 8-18. There may also be other support groups in your area, contact your local Disability Information Centre to find out what is available.

Find out more about SibShop and SibCamp on Parent to Parent’s website (external link)

Find your local Disability Information Centre

Include children in decision making

In an article from the Child Mind Institute, they suggest including your children in decision making (where appropriate) to help build a feeling of being a team. This ensures your children are engaged with and not excluded from what is happening.

Read article from the Child Mind Institute (external link)

Create a safe space for children to express their feelings and thoughts

According to Psychiatry Advisor, it can be difficult for children to let you know what they’re feeling and thinking as they don’t want to be a burden or they feel the need to be a “perfect” child. Try to regularly set aside time to sit down with your children and encourage them to share their feelings and thoughts, no matter what they are.

Try to make sure your non-disabled children don’t take on too much responsibility

In an article from The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, it is recommended you try to make sure your non-disabled children don’t take on too much responsibility as siblings of disabled children tend to put high expectations on themselves. Regularly remind them that they are loved as they are and don’t need to be the perfect child.

Read article from The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds (external link)

Address concerns about the future

Older children and teenagers often worry about what the future will look like for them in terms of supporting their sibling with a disability as they move into adulthood. The Clay Center suggests making a plan for the future with your children and deciding on a Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work out.

Seek out resources

Get in touch with your local Disability Information Centre to see if there are resources they can give you to help with supporting your children. Parent to Parent also have a variety of resources available for siblings of all age levels.

Parent to Parent’s resources for siblings (external link)

Where to go if you need support

There are a variety of organisations you can approach if you need support or advice.

Parent to Parent

A national not-for-profit that provides support to families of disabled people.

Visit Parent to Parent’s website (external link) .


Aa charity that provides support for New Zealanders who are facing any kind of tough life situation. Their website has lots of resources and also run a counselling service.

Visit Skylight's website. (external link)

Your local Disability Information Centre

A Disability Information Centre will be able to provide you with advice, or point you in the direction of someone who can help.

Find your local Disability Information Centre.

Last updated on Tuesday, 28 November 2023

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