As the school year comes to a close, many of us may be looking ahead to the long, unstructured months of summer, thinking, “What am I going to do with all the kids home?”
Every household, regardless of the presence of a disability, has experienced sibling squabbling. Throw in more free time to spend with each other and it can be a recipe for headaches!
Here are some tips that may help to support positive interactions throughout these summer months:
- Just because they are both home, doesn’t mean that they need to spend all their time together. Find times when your children can do things together, but also let them their own things.
- Set realistic expectations for the amount of time the siblings can spend together. Some kids thrive when they know how much time they’ll be spending on an activity. Using timers or being clear about breaks can help. When things start going well, gradually increase the amount of time they spend together.
- Have each child name some activities that they want to do and include everyone’s preferences. Set up a visual “turn taking” schedule that alternates between each sibling’s choices. The opportunity to engage in “their” choice should serve as a reward for participation in their sibling’s choice. Timers to show how long each activity will last are useful here, too!
- Set up rules (and post them!) and reward systems for each sibling.
- List and teach alternate responses that could replace arguing. For example, asking for a break from their sibling, leaving the room when they start to feel frustrated, or calling a parent for help when their sibling may not be playing fair.
Help them learn to work together
- Find activities that the siblings can work together to achieve an end-goal, rather than competing with each other or engaging in parallel activities.
- Here are some websites that have lots of great ideas:
A little attention goes a long way
- Try (we know it’s hard!) to find some time each week to spend with each child by themselves so they get some one-on-one quality parent attention.
- For your typically developing child, use this time to speak with them about their sibling with a disability. You might include topics like: educating them on what the disability means, what concerns they may have, what feelings they have toward their sibling, and anything else that they want to talk about. It is a great idea to do this all year round, but during the summer, everyone likely has more time to pay attention to the family.
- Here is a link that can give you some guidance: http://www.researchautism.org/family/familysupport/documents/OAR_SiblingResource_Parents_Bookmarks.pdf
Recruit Your Resources!
Don’t go it alone! Speak to your home ABA team leaders about:
- How to teach these skills to your child with ASD
- Including siblings in therapy sessions for practice
- How to generalize the skills being taught
- Finding times you can jump into the session
Hope some of these tips can help everyone have a relaxing and family fun filled summer!
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