Siblings on Father’s Day

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June 19, 2015, ACES

Siblings on Father's DayFamilies with a child with autism might have siblings who may or may not also be on the spectrum. These parents understand the balancing act of meeting the demanding needs of the child with autism while also providing other siblings with the time and attention they too deserve and need.

The father-child bond is strong and the love is omnipresent yet siblings of a child with autism may feel they have somehow been slighted in life. As just one possible challenge, guilt may be felt by the parents and siblings as they all learn to live within this family construct - one not like the others. Childhood issues may also include jealousy of the disproportionate attention given to the child with autism, embarrassment in public by awkward behavior, and discouragement due to the precarious emotional connection between the typical and non-typical siblings.

Father’s Day can be an ideal opportunity to bring the family together. It may not be a day of sleeping late, watching sports, and bacon for every meal but that isn’t the world of a dad raising a child with autism anyway. It really doesn’t take that much effort to make them feel extra special. This day the spotlight is on dad yet it is also a day when the spotlight is on the family and everyone plays a part..

Here are some tips for how each member of the family can contribute in turning Father’s Day in to a celebration of the whole family (with an emphasis on dad, naturally).

Dad: Give some thought to how you want to spend the day. Include one-on-one time with each child, time with your spouse, and time for yourself. Communicate your wishes to your spouse and have her make arrangements for help if needed. It is ok to lean on relatives or close friends. They love you too.

Mom: Listen to and follow through with his preferences. Do the best you can to turn this day in to a positive, memorable experience for all. Work with your child with autism to make a card or letter to present to dad. It is your teachable moment for all the children on the importance of giving to others, and to honor the father who does so much to keep the family going. You’re the role model here. Don’t mess around. Make sure the camera batteries are charged.

Siblings: Make an effort to put together a meaningful group gift for dad that involves your sibling with autism. It won’t take much to make him happy. Just knowing you worked together on something special for him is enough. Ideas include a framed photo of all the siblings, an art project, or preparing a surprise picnic lunch enjoyed together.

Parents are constantly utilizing strategies to manage the behavior of children, particularly a child with autism. Think of Father’s Day as a strategic day to manage the family behavior. There is a lot of love within the family. Seize the day to strengthen family bonds and, of course, to celebrate dad. Now go follow the plan and have some fun!