The Sibling Relationship
The sibling relationship can be one of the closest and most enduring relationships in a person’s life, leading to countless rewards, support, and growth. Developmental disabilities in one child, however, can present unique challenges for unaffected siblings.
Just as with other disabilities, siblings of children with FXS may feel torn between two sets of feelings. They may feel embarrassment, guilt, isolation, increased responsibility, and pressure to succeed. On the other hand, their experience may also help them develop uncommon maturity, insight, tolerance, pride, and loyalty. They may even feel drawn to a vocation related to disabilities as a direct result of the relationship.
Growing up with siblings who appear different can be difficult. Explaining unusual behaviors to their peers, such as why a brother suddenly begins to hum or flap his arms, is not easy. Conflicts can also arise about fairness and why parents tolerate certain behaviors in an affected sibling, but not in the others.
Having a sibling with FXS can affect most everything the family does. Trips and family outings may get cancelled due to the behavior of their sibling. Many unaffected siblings grow up witnessing trips to hospitals and clinics and observing their parents’ frustration as they seek answers about their sibling.
Counseling for siblings not affected by FXS may be as important as for those who are affected.