Talking with Kids about Siblings with Complex Issues

Sibling relationships can be hard enough, but when you add complex issues into the mix, these relationships need to be tread carefully. How do you talk to siblings of complex kids about the complex issues?


We got this question about how to talk to your child's siblings about their complex challenges. If you've got one child with –

Dyslexia, and another child with ADHD, or a combination.

So what do you say about that? You've got kids that are in different situations.

Well in our family, everybody had something so it actually was a great normalizer. And I remember when my youngest, my middlest child was diagnosed, she was grateful that she had something too. But in our family, we really always normalized it in terms of: everybody's got something. Some people have diabetes, some people have eyesight issues. People have strengths, and people have challenges, and that's just the way it is. So we sort of make it matter-of-fact and focus on understanding what the issue is and how it shows up so that we could learn to manage it ourselves and be respectful of others and not make it be an excuse or any of that.

I think the other piece of it is that we can assume, this is a great place to talk about assuming best intention (ABI). Part of it is that you've got to understand that your sibling may not be doing what they're doing on purpose, and it's not like they can just change and that their brain works very differently than yours does.

Yeah. One of my kid struggles with some pretty severe anxiety. I remember sitting down and talking to siblings about that, about how we all have some and really how hard it was for that sibling to do simple things sometimes. That when she was really overwhelmed, how hard it was to, maybe it was not scream, or get out the door in the morning, which impacted everybody else. So to really help the siblings find compassion when one of their siblings was really struggling with something. So that instead of having it all be about them, it was about helping them see how hard it was for their sibling. Not as an excuse again, but as a way of supporting each other.

Also, one more thing. Talking with siblings about complex kids is not a one-time conversation – it happens over time.

Bottom Line: When talking to kids about their sibling's complex issues, you can put it in perspective of strengths and challenges to normalize and encourage compassion among siblings without using the issues as an excuse.

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