Sibling Rivalry

Conflicts among siblings usually stem from feelings of jealousy or resentment. Your child with dyslexia will feel frustrated if siblings close in age or younger than him are allowed extra privileges that are denied to him because of his learning problems — this may occur because of the need for your child to spend time outside of school receiving special tutoring, while siblings have more free time to participate in sports or social activities.

Conversely, your child's siblings may feel that she has monopolized all of the family attention and resources — for example, a sibling may resent being denied the opportunity to go to summer camp because you don't have the money after paying for intensive tutoring at a summer program for dyslexia. Or a sibling may feel frustrated that her good grades and accomplishments are not honored by the family when you are simply bending over backward trying to make sure that the child with dyslexia doesn't feel humiliated or inadequate in a house full of honor-roll students.

Maintain Balance

It is important for you to try to maintain balance. Your children do not have equal abilities, but each child deserves recognition and encouragement for her abilities, and support and understanding for areas of weakness. At the same time, you need to guide your children toward having respect for each other's differences. Start by making sure that your child's siblings understand what dyslexia is — and at the same time they need to know that their sibling is not fragile or inept.

ESSENTIAL

A healthy sense of humor will help everyone get along. No one likes being the butt of a joke, but everyone gains from learning to laugh at his own mistakes. You can help set the tone in your family by maintaining a lighthearted attitude.

It is important as well that you avoid being overprotective of your child with dyslexia; you may wince when you hear a sibling crack a joke about his brother's spelling errors, but you can cause more strife if you overreact by yelling or punishing the offending sibling. A gentle reminder that the comment was hurtful is more appropriate. Keep in mind that healthy siblings do tend to tease and criticize one another; observe your child's reactions before lashing out in anger. You may discover that your child with dyslexia is quite capable of standing up for himself — you may even discover that the one with dyslexia is the instigator of many sibling battles.

Try to keep the family focus on more than academics. This means that you will give your child with dyslexia recognition for accomplishments outside of school, and that you do not allow your efforts to address his school problems to prevent you from acknowledging the importance of your other children's extracurricular activities. Encourage family hobbies that everyone can participate in and enjoy.

Foster Strong Sibling Relationships

Look for ways to spend time individually with each sibling, and allow each child free rein to vent their feelings of frustration or anxiety. You may be surprised to learn that an older child is as worried about your child's dyslexia as you are. Help your older child understand ways that he can help; if he learns more about his younger sibling's learning style, he may be better equipped to offer help with homework.

Younger siblings rarely perceive the child with dyslexia as being disabled. They are more likely to simply accept their older sibling at face value, and to be fully aware of his many strengths — after all, their older sibling has always been bigger and stronger and quite capable in many ways. However, the younger child is also less apt to understand why so much attention is being focused on the sibling with dyslexia.

At some point, a younger sibling is likely develop better reading and writing skills than the child with dyslexia. This can be a source of confusion and resentment; the older child may feel embarrassed, and the younger child may not understand why her older brother needs extra help with skills she has easily mastered. At this time, it is important that you answer the younger child's questions about dyslexia. Be sure to explain that it is a learning difference and not an illness — many children mistakenly believe that their sibling has some sort of disease.

Siblings can also be a great source of support for one another. Rather than feeling resentful, a child with dyslexia may feel a sense of pride when her younger brother starts reading. While understanding her own limitations, she may feel relieved that her sibling doesn't face the same barriers, and the younger child may be eager to help the older one.

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