Just Like the Others
Around ages 10 or 11 it starts to hit hard. Kids just want to be like their peers. They want to look like them. Wanting to be like others is evident in social situations, at school, and even at home.
For example, children with hearing loss in the fourth grade become very reluctant to wear hearing aids because they do not want to look different. Leaving the inclusion classroom for special education becomes more upsetting to children with learning disabilities. They want to do the same things as their peers.
Keep an eye out for sibling jealousy. Often we think of it from the perspective of the sibling who is “typically developing.” She may see Mom and Dad's attention as more focused on helping her little brother with learning difficulties than being interested in her soccer tryouts.
Most parents are quick to say that they love their children equally. The extraordinary need of one child, however, can come across very differently to a sibling who has a normally fragile self-concept.
Very few families experience a lack of sibling love and caring (even when the green-eyed monster is around). Draw on the bond that brothers and sisters continue to share. Encourage activities as a family as well as some just for siblings, to foster that healthy, supportive rapport.
Sibling jealousy can also go the other direction as well. Little brother who has learning difficulties can be frustrated with how easily his sister finishes her homework. On Friday evening, she is the one who is hanging out with friends. He wants to be invited to activities with the other children in his class. Seeing his sister go places with her friends, he may decide that certainly his parents are giving her more freedom or privileges.
Look for ways to point out how the strengths of siblings complement each other. Is one a great artist who makes the family proud by decorating birthday card envelopes? Is one more mechanically minded and able to fix that temperamental bike?
Kids at School
Your child may wish to be more like other kids at school. Perhaps he wishes he did not have to attend special education classes. Perhaps he longs to be more popular and confident.
Acknowledge how your child feels. His feelings are real; they impact his self-concept and how he approaches life. Real life, however, is not always fair.
Work with your child's IEP team to plan which classes should be taken in the special education setting. Also look for opportunities to have your child in the inclusion class with his peers. He will take much of his cue from you on how to react to leaving his peers for specialized instruction.
Acknowledge how your child feels, and then talk about ideas to boost his self-confidence. Can he look for opportunities to answer questions in class? That will boost his self-concept and give him recognition in the eyes of his peers. Brainstorm about social situations. Can he invite a friend from his inclusion class to come over or to go to an activity like the movies? Acknowledge how your child feels, and then help him make a plan.
Others with Special Needs
Sometimes your child will feel jealousy toward another child with special needs. This may happen when he perceives the other child as being more successful. Perhaps he has the social language down pat, or his house is the cool place to be. Perhaps he is more successful in academics and does not have special education instruction for as many classes as your child does.
Help your child refocus on the great things about himself. What are his own achievements? Remind him that everyone has different goals. Perhaps he can pat himself on the back for practicing multiplication facts daily until he mastered them.