The journey of navigating the Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) for a child with special educational needs (SEN) is intricate and demanding. While much attention is rightfully given to the child with SEN, it’s crucial to recognize the unique challenges faced by their siblings. These siblings often grapple with a mix of emotions, from pride and love for their brother or sister to feelings of neglect or jealousy. In this post, we’ll explore the sibling dynamic in EHCP families and how Bohangar Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CBH) can be a beacon of support.
Understanding the Sibling Perspective
Siblings of children with SEN often find themselves in a delicate balance. They might feel the need to be the ‘strong’ one in the family, suppressing their feelings to avoid adding to their parents’ burdens. They might also experience moments of resentment, wondering why their sibling gets more attention or why family routines often revolve around the needs of the child with SEN.
Navigating family dynamics is already a complex task, and this becomes even more intricate when one child has Special Educational Needs (SEN). The siblings of such children, although equally cherished and loved, often find themselves precariously balancing their emotions and roles within the family.
Feeling the Need to Be the ‘Rock’
Many siblings inherently feel an obligation to be the ‘strong’ or ‘mature’ one in the family, especially when they sense the weight of challenges their parents are already juggling. This self-imposed role can sometimes mean suppressing their own feelings, needs, or concerns, striving not to add any more stress to their parents.
Wrestling with Resentment: While these siblings may deeply love and care for their brother or sister with SEN, it’s natural for them sometimes to feel a tinge of resentment. They might silently question why their sibling seemingly receives more attention, resources, or allowances. Or they might feel the weight of family decisions that seem to prioritize the needs of the child with SEN, whether it’s choosing holiday destinations or daily routines.
Case Study – The Martins: A Snapshot of a Typical Family Dinner
Meet the Martin family: Sarah and James, with their two kids, Lily (who has SEN) and Max. At a glance, their dinner scene might look like any other family’s: laughter, the clinking of dishes, and the sharing of daily stories. But as we zoom in, the dynamics become clearer.
Lily, the elder of the two at 12, requires specific dietary needs and assistance with eating. This often means that one of the parents is primarily focused on aiding her throughout the meal. Max, two years younger, has naturally slipped into the role of the conversation initiator, sharing stories from school or discussing his day, trying to keep the atmosphere light and engaging.
While the Martins make collective efforts to ensure both children are engaged and included, Max sometimes feels the pressure. He notices when his achievements or stories are met with distracted nods or when outings are selected based on what’s most comfortable for Lily.
One evening, after sharing about a significant achievement at school, Max voiced a rare sentiment of frustration, “Why does everything always have to be about Lily?” It was a moment of raw emotion, a culmination of suppressed feelings. Sarah and James, while initially taken aback, realised it was crucial to address not just that specific outburst but the underlying feelings Max had been harbouring.
This case exemplifies the often-unspoken emotions siblings might feel. It underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing these feelings, ensuring every family member feels seen and heard. Balancing the needs of all children, understanding their perspectives, and fostering open communication is pivotal in nurturing a harmonious family environment.
The Role of CBH in Balancing the Family Dynamic
Bohangar CBH offers a holistic approach that can benefit not just the parents or the child with SEN, but the entire family unit. Here’s how:
- Enhanced Communication: CBH techniques can equip parents with the tools to foster open communication within the family. By creating a safe space for siblings to express their feelings, parents can address any feelings of neglect or jealousy head-on.
- Building Empathy: Through relaxation and visualization techniques, siblings can be guided to step into the shoes of their brother or sister with SEN. This can foster a deeper understanding and empathy, reducing feelings of resentment.
- Strengthening Bonds: CBH can introduce family-based exercises that strengthen the bond between siblings. Activities that focus on teamwork and mutual understanding can help in building a resilient family dynamic.
Practical CBH Techniques for Parents
- Mindful Listening: Dedicate time to listen to your child without distractions. This simple act can make them feel valued and understood.
- Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate the achievements and strengths of each child, ensuring that praise is not disproportionately given to the child with SEN.
- Guided Imagery: Use guided imagery sessions to help siblings visualize positive interactions and harmonious family moments. This can set a positive tone for real-life interactions.
- 1. Cultivating Robust Communication Channels: CBH techniques empower parents with strategies to nurture transparent communication channels within the family. By carving out a safe emotional sanctuary for siblings to unveil their feelings, parents can proactively address any brewing feelings of neglect or envy.
- 2. Fostering Empathy: Utilizing relaxation and guided visualization paradigms, siblings can embark on a journey to experience the world from the perspective of their sibling with SEN. This immersive experience can culminate in a profound sense of understanding and empathy, mitigating feelings of bitterness.
- 3. Augmenting Familial Bonds: CBH introduces a repertoire of family-centric exercises tailored to fortify the bonds between siblings. These activities, centred around mutual understanding and collaborative efforts, lay the foundation for a cohesive family dynamic.
Honouring the Uniqueness of Each Child
While it’s paramount to address the diverse needs of the child with SEN, it’s equally vital to acknowledge and champion the distinctiveness of their siblings. Every child, irrespective of their personal challenges, is a mosaic of unique strengths, dreams, and aspirations. Harnessing the power of CBH techniques, parents can sculpt an environment where every child feels cherished and comprehended, ensuring a symmetrical family atmosphere.
The Importance of Individuality
While it’s essential to address the needs of the child with SEN, it’s equally crucial to recognize and celebrate the individuality of their siblings. Each child, regardless of their circumstances, has unique strengths, aspirations, and needs. By using CBH techniques, parents can ensure that each child feels valued and understood, fostering a balanced family environment.
The EHCP journey, while centred around the child with special educational needs, ripples out to impact the entire family. Siblings, in their unique position, face challenges that need acknowledgement and support. Bohangar Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy offers a comprehensive approach to ensure that the family dynamic remains balanced, harmonious, and rooted in understanding and love. By addressing the needs of siblings and fostering open communication, families can navigate the EHCP journey with resilience and unity.