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Contemporary Parenting Questions


Last updated on 01/23/09

How can I help my children cope with having a special-needs sibling?

From the moment a special-needs child is born, life for his parents and siblings changes forever. Special-needs children, whether challenged physically, cognitively, or emotionally, demand much of their parents’ time and energy. Siblings of a special-needs child may feel anger or resentment towards the child, as he takes all of their parents’ attention and leaves them tired and drained. As the child gets older, his siblings may wish that they had a regular sibling. They might also resent the stares and questions they get when in public with the special-needs child.

It is important for the parents to speak openly about their child to their family and community. People are generally very accepting toward special-needs children and they will respect the family for their devotion. If the siblings of a special-needs child receive the necessary support from their family and community, they will not feel shame and resentment toward their sibling, but they will love him for who he is.

In the Jewish Community

In almost every Jewish community across the globe, many programs cater to special-needs children and their families. A few examples include Yidei Chessed, Hamaspik, Ohr Vada’as, Ohel- Bais Ezra, Camp Simcha Special, HASC, SCHI…the list goes on and on. Some families, however, do not avail themselves to these services; they are too ashamed of their child. This may be more common in the Jewish community because of its influence on matchmaking. Some individuals scorn any sign of imperfection and will not consider the sibling of a special-needs child as a potential partner, hence the secrecy.

Individuals who do this are mistaken, as special-needs children are not an imperfection; everything in the world was made exactly the way it needs to be to fulfill its purpose. Special-needs children have special souls that are directly connected with our Creator. Siblings of special-needs children should be made aware of the special role their sibling has in this world.

Use the following links to learn more about the concerns that siblings of special-needs children have. Find out how to explain your child’s special needs to his other siblings, and learn where you can go get help.

Frequently Asked Links

What do siblings of special needs children need to know?

What do siblings of special needs children need from their parents? more more

What can parents do to help siblings of children with emotional and behavioral problems?

How can I explain what mental retardation is to my child?

How can I explain Down’s syndrome in child-friendly terms?

How can I help my child understand what life is like for a child with special needs?

Are siblings of children with special needs at a greater risk for psychological disorders?

What are some of the concerns that siblings of children with special needs face?

How can I address my children’s feelings about their special needs sibling?

How can I raise a special-needs child without arousing the jealousy of my other children?

What should I do to combat sibling rivalry between regular children and a special needs child?

How can I explain to my child that different things are expected from a child with special needs?

What can I do to prepare my children for questions about their special needs sibling?

Where can I find books for parents and siblings of children with special needs?

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Parenting Resources for the Jewish Community

Compiled by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Resources for Parents in the Jewish Community with Special Needs Children

Compiled by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)
NDSS strives to ensure that all people with Down syndrome have the opportunity to achieve their full potential in community life. Call: (800) 221-4602

Sibling Support Project

The Sibling Support Project is a national effort dedicated to the life-long concerns of brothers and sisters of people who have special health, developmental, or mental health concerns.

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