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Father Consoling Child

Helping Kids Cope With Siblings’ Health Issues

Illness and injury of a child can impact an entire family, especially healthy siblings. Whether the changes include extra doctor visits, therapy visits, or hospitalizations, the healthy sibling’s life will be effected in some way.

Healthy siblings can display a wide range of feelings and emotions which may include:

Here are some ways to support these well siblings and help them through their feelings:

  • Be honest with them about what is happening.  Share your feelings so they know it is okay to share their feelings.
  • Give your time, not gifts.  Set up specific times to spend one-on-one with the healthy sibling. Try marking them down on a calendar so that younger children have a “visual” to remind them.
  • Continue daily routines.  Keeping (as much as possible) a normal schedule for mealtimes, school, homework, chores and bed time can help the child/teen stay focused and on task.  Work with the healthy sibling to design a calendar or schedule to keep posted so they know “what is when”.
  • Try to prepare for changes in the house.  If a parent will be absent from the home, a babysitter or family member may come in to help.  Let the sibling know this in advance and set up rules/guidelines so everyone is on the same page.
  • Keep teachers informed of changes.  This will help school understand if there are behavioral issues and will allow them to be sensitive and understanding to the situation.
  • Validate the feelings of the healthy sibling. Reassure them that they are not to blame and it is okay to feel the way they feel.

If you would like to seek out extra help, North Shore Pediatric Therapy has an experienced Social Work team that can help work through the various emotions and behaviors.






8 Tips to help your Child Accept being a Big Brother or Sister

With a new baby on the way, there is a lot of excitement, joy, and preparation involved. In addition to all of these emotions and tasks sibling with new babyto complete, parents also need to keep in mind of the feelings of their older child. For an older child, the thoughts of Mommy and Daddy having another baby could be mixed. There is the thrill of being a big brother/sister, but there are also concerns that the attention will no longer be on him/her as well as the uncertainty of what exactly a new baby entails. The older child might start to feel left out or the need to take on more responsibilities.

If you want to help your child accept being a big brother/sister, try the below strategies:

  1. Prepare your older child. Talk about the baby and what will be happening before, during and after the new baby comes with your oldest child. Read books to your child about new babies as well as about becoming a big brother/sister. In addition, get a baby doll for your child to start playing/interacting with. With a baby doll, you can help teach your child how to appropriately care and play with their new brother/sister.
  2. Keep the routine the same. When possible, keep your child’s routine the same throughout pregnancy as well as after the baby is born. Let your child stay in his/her different activities and allow him/her to continue doing the activities that he/she enjoys.
  3. Arrange for positive interactions. Your child can help with choosing items for the baby, such as for the baby’s room and the new baby’s clothes. Your oldest child and you can create a welcome card as well as get a special welcome gift that your child picks out himself/herself. Once the baby is born, your child can read books, sing songs and hold the new baby with supervision.
  4. Provide praise. When your older child is appropriately interacting with or helping out with the new baby, be sure to provide very specific praise for these situations. For example, “You are playing so nicely with your little brother/sister!” or “Thank you for bringing us a clean diaper!”.
  5. Brag about the older child. When the older child is around, talk to the baby about the great things he or she does. For example, “Look at how far Richie threw the ball! When you get older, he can teach you to throw far!” or “Your big sister, Sarah, is so helpful! She cleaned up all of the toys!”
  6. One-on-one time for each child. If you and the new baby are participating in “Mommy and Me” classes or “Daddy and Me” classes, make sure to also find a class or activity that you and the older child can go to together. Spending time together can be as simple as taking the older sibling with you on an errand while the baby stays at home with the other parent.
  7. Family time. Make sure to make time for family time and family outings. Include everyone in different activities that are be fun for both the older child as well as the new baby.
  8. Make the baby wait. In many cases, the older child will have to wait while you care for the baby. Every now and then, if possible, make the baby wait and finish helping out your older child. You do not always have to stop what you are doing as soon as the baby cries (as long as immediate attention is not necessary).

Before and after a new baby is introduced into the home, keep these tips in mind to help your older child accept and love being a big brother or sister. A new baby is an exciting and life-changing event for everyone in the household. At times, it’s easy to overlook the concerns of someone who might not be able to express themselves completely about the new addition to the family.

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Speech Delays and Talkative Older Siblings

Older sibling with younger siblingA parent recently asked me what to do when her child’s older sibling constantly answers for him.  While it’s caring that the older sibling wants to help his little brother, it’s also very important for each child to have his own space to learn and develop, try new things, and make mistakes.  So how can parents help?

What to do when an older sibling compensates for a child with speech and language difficulties:

  • Talk to the older sibling alone. Instead of being reactive, be proactive by talking to your older child about his younger sibling’s needs.  Teach him that it takes time to learn how to talk, and he can help his younger sibling talk by giving him space to try on his own.
  • Use positive language. Instead of telling older siblings what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  For example, “You can help Jonny talk by being a good listener,” or, “You can be a helpful big brother by letting other people have a turn to talk.”
  • Teach older siblings alternative ways to be a helper. Praise your older child for wanting to help his younger sibling, and then offer him other ways to help. For example, he can help his younger sibling by being a good listener, by giving him time to finish his ideas, and by saying encouraging things (such as, “good job!” or, “thanks for sharing your idea!”).
  • Emphasize “talking turns” between family members.  It’s important for all children to learn conversation rules early on, which includes learning about listening, interruptions, and waiting for a turn to talk.  This can certainly be hard for young kids.  To help, emphasize “talking-turns.”  (“It’s Jonny’s turn to talk. Next will be your turn to talk.”)  You might even use a tangible object, such as a toy microphone, ball, or teddy bear, to pass back and forth when it’s each person’s turn.
  • Play games as a family that promote turn-taking.  You might take turns with a toy by passing it back and forth, play catch with a ball, or play a board game that involves turn-taking, such as Barn Yard Bingo, Candy Land, or Zingo.
  • Encourage active listening. Teach family members what it means to be a good listener. Use concrete examples such as, “You can listen by looking at the person who is talking,” or, “When you are listening, your mouth is quiet.”
  • Set aside one-on-one time for each sibling to play with a parent alone. Language development is enhanced through modeling, practice, and play with caregivers.  To make sure your child is receiving language-rich opportunities, set aside 15-20 minutes each day to play one-on-one with your child.
  • Praise the things that are going well. When you notice positive behavior, reinforce your child right away using very specific language.  For example, “Wow! You let Jonny have a turn to talk. You are a very good big brother when you let other people have a turn to talk.”

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help your children develop healthier communication habits.  Older siblings have a special role as a “big brother” or “big sister.”  By teaching them about their special role, you can encourage your kids to feel more positive about helping their younger siblings. For more ideas about how to incorporate siblings into your child’s speech and language development, visit the blog, Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice.

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Encouraging Siblings to Help With Speech & Language Practice

Save Time By Getting The Whole Family Involved

One of the most important contributors to progress in speech-language therapy is consistent practice at home. I often compare therapy to working-out at the gym: once a week is unlikely to make a big impact. In order to master new speech and language skills, Young Sisters Reading To Each Otherchildren should practice several times during the week, which is no easy task for the average family that juggles sibling activities and busy schedules. Parents frequently share their challenge to find time for one-on-one practice with their child, especially with competing sibling demands. With a little creativity, however, this task is not impossible! Here are a few tips to practice your child’s speech and language goals while incorporating siblings.

Tips to encourage positive speech-language skills among siblings

  • Create an atmosphere of support and encouragement among siblings. Talk to your kids about “kind” things to say to each other. Give them specific examples of phrases to encourage their sibling’s speech and language, such as “I like when you share your idea”, or “You’re really good at saying your S-sound!”. Praise your kids every time you hear encouraging words (e.g. “Wow, that was a kind thing to say. You’re a really good big brother.”)
  • Minimize interrupting between siblings by encouraging “talking turns”. Competing for a turn to talk can exacerbate speech and language difficulties. Foster a safe environment to talk and share, by explaining “talking turns” to your kids (e.g. “It’s Ava’s talking turn right now. You’re talking turn is next!”). If needed, use a tangible object (e.g. a ball, a pretend microphone, a teddy bear) to pass back and forth during each talking turn.
  • Encourage siblings to be “active listeners”. Explain what active listening is (e.g. “We listen with our ears, our eyes are looking at the person talking, our mouth is not talking, our body is still, our hands are quiet,” etc.) Praise active listening skills as you observe them (e.g. “Wow Alex! You are such a good listener! Your eyes are looking at Ava. I can tell you’re listening.”).
  • Incorporate siblings into practice games and activities. Ask your child’s speech therapist for specific activities that are hand-tailored to your child’s therapy goals. As you play together, include siblings in practicing target speech sounds or language structures. Encourage your kids to give one another positive feedback (e.g. “That was a really good S-sound!” or “That was a really good try!”). Listening to each other while practicing will build greater awareness and self-monitoring skills.

Fun activities to get siblings involved in speech and language practice

  • Practice following directions during “Simon Says”.
  • Read books together and take turns answering questions, labeling objects or retelling the story in your own words (depending on each child’s level).
  • Play turn-taking games while working on target speech sounds or language structures.
  • Create a fun recipe or craft together, and practice target speech sounds between each step.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt. Have siblings take turns giving each other clues where items are hidden.
  • Sing songs together and use hand-motions or gestures while you sing.
  • For more ideas to encourage speech and language skills, see a previous post “5 Fun & Easy Activities to Promote Speech & Language Skills During Summer

 

Preparing Siblings for a New Baby

boy with babyWhile you are busy trying to figure out what color room to paint, picking out the best crib, and preparing for the “big day,” you suddenly remember that you have another child at home that you have to help get ready for the arrival of the new baby.

Suddenly, you panic. You might, think, “How am I going to tell him/her? What am I going to say?”

Relax.  Being the older sibling can be amazing… you just need the right tools!

12 Tips To Help Prepare Siblings For A New Baby:

  1. One of the best ways to help a soon-to-be older sibling is to read books with them about being a big brother or sister. The visuals will help them to understand what to expect.
  2. Remind them what it’s like to be the new baby. Start off by showing the soon-to-be older sibling a picture of him in your tummy, immediately after he is born, taking his first bottle, etc.
  3. Be sure to let your little one lead the discussion. Encourage her to ask questions.
  4. Create a “job” schedule that they can do to help you with the baby (e.g. helping get the diapers when you need it, getting the bottle when the baby is crying). This will make them feel as if they are a part of the whole experience. Dolls and other “life-like” items can be used.
  5. Check out local classes at your nearby hospital. They often hold classes on preparing for a new baby and will have special classes for the brother or sister. They help your child understand what life is going to be like with a new baby, and your child will also develop appropriate social skills with other children their age.
  6. Before your new baby is born, ask another family member to help your child find a “big brother or big sister present.” Ideally, the present will be something meaningful to the older sibling (e.g. a shirt, blanket or stuffed animal). Read more

Sibling Rivalry | Why Siblings Fight and How to Prevent it!

After reading Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, I had to question whether or not this title was realistic. Don’t all siblings have difficulty getting along sometimes? The answer is yes – all brothers and sisters go through conflicts that may cause you to pull your hair out. However, there is a difference between normal sibling rivalry and behavior that is not typical between brothers and sisters. There are also plenty of ways that parents can both reduce the tension in the household and actually exacerbate the situation. Sibling Rivalry

Why do Brothers and Sisters Fight?

• Siblings fight due to developmental levels. Younger children are going to argue over “silly” things, such as sharing toys and sitting too close to each other.

• Brothers and sisters may not get along because their personalities are either too different or too similar. You also may have two children with very strong personalities.

• Siblings of children with special needs may have difficulty with understanding why their brother or sister gets more attention than they do.

• Sex and age can also cause sibling rivalry. Children of the same sex and close in age may be more competitive due to having similar interests.

• Parenting plays a major role. How you resolve conflict may impact your children’s problem-solving ability. As a parent, you also have the power to increase or decrease the tension based on how you react.

• Fighting amongst siblings is normal. How and how much they fight is the question to be answered when determining what atypical behavior is. Physical interactions between siblings are never okay and should always be addressed. You may never fully eliminate arguing between siblings, but the frequency can always be reduced. Read more