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Young Siblings

Children and teens who have siblings with special health or developmental considerations share many unique concerns and joys.  Understanding that they are not alone is important.

That’s where WisconSibs can help.  We offer a variety of programs in northeastern Wisconsin that provide them opportunities to meet other kids who have siblings with special needs, including:

  • Sibsack kit for ages 3-5. This collection of an activity book, story books, a parent guide with strategies, and even a toy is available to families who have a child with disabilities and a sibling child ages 3-5.  Contact us to request your Sibsack.
  • Sibshops – the award-winning workshops just for siblings, ages 6-12
  • SibDays of Summer for ages 6-12
  • Sib Camp for ages 9-16
  • Teen Sib Leadership program for ages 13-17

Does your child with a disability have a typically-developing brother or sister age 3-5?

We also can provide Sibshops or other programs for siblings at conferences. Contact Us for more information.

For resources and books centered around being a young sibling, check out our WisconSibs Resource Library under the Resources tab.

Will I Be Taking Care of My Brother?

Christina-BrotherBy age 7, Christiana had already learned much about taking care of her four-year-old brother who had physical and cognitive disabilities. She clearly knew that he wasn’t learning the skills to become independent like the sisters and brothers of her friends.

One day as she and her mom were kicking a soccer ball around the yard with her brother (she helped him balance in his walker and move his leg to kick the ball), she asked her mom out of the clear blue: “When you and Daddy die, will I be taking care of Phillip?”

Her mom was expecting that question someday…but thought it would be when she was age 17, or 27… not 7.

Young children have questions.  They need information.  While parents can be prepared to answer questions, children benefit from talking with other kids about their questions, their unique concerns and the joys they experience as siblings.  Siblings who attend WisconSibs programs benefit from networking with other siblings from other families.

From One Kid to Another

Cate-Ellisby Cate Ellis

“If you kids out there that have a brother or sister with a disability ever feel alone, just know that you’re not, because there are millions of kids that are like us.  It’s easy to feel alone, but there are lots of kids out there that are just like us – we just need to connect with each other.

“When my sister Addie was first diagnosed with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS for short), I felt like I was alone and that no one knew what I was going through,  I was strong, there were a bunch of kids for me to connect with that I am now friends with who have a brother or sister with RTS.  It’s great to meet kids that feel the same way that I feel or have gone through the same things I have.  READ MORE.

Welcome to Our World

Over 60% of children who have a sibling with cognitive disabilities expect to take care of their sibling when they become adults.

our-worldEven very young children understand that they play a role in their sibling’s life.  Siblings are important role models for their brothers and sisters, their classmates, even other relatives.  They also quickly become important advocates and often caregivers for their siblings.  By recognizing that their “typical” children need support, parents can help ensure these experiences are positive and their children are prepared to cope with challenges while celebrating the joys of having a sibling with special needs.

Tips for Young Siblings

  • You feel lonely because you are an only sibling. Find a special friend or perhaps a cousin to share confidences with and to be there for you when you need them. Some children find these special friends at Sibshops.
  • You feel you want to know more about your sibling’s condition but are afraid you’ll upset your parents if you ask questions.  In most cases parents are happy to clear up what may worry you.  First ask them if this is a good time to talk.  Explain that you would feel better if you had some information and ask your questions. You may be surprised how happy your parents are that you asked.
  • You know your sibling can do more for himself if only your parents would let him.  Often siblings know the abilities of their siblings even more than their parents.  Find a calm time to bring up the subject and give your parents a couple of examples that point out your sibling’s abilities.  Listen to their side of the issue.  If you still think your sibling has the ability, suggest you’d be willing to help him give it a try.  Good luck!