Tips For Managing Family Friction

Working with your Child:

  • Sort out the reasonable part of the relative’s request from the inappropriate manner in which it was expressed to your child. Rephrase the request in a way your child will respond to more positively. This will model a better approach to managing your child’s behaviour – both for him and the adult who’s criticized him.
  • If discussing hard feelings after-the-fact causes your child to get worked up again, calmly tell him that you thought a certain relative’s request was appropriate, but that she didn’t make it in a respectful way. Empathize with how that made your child feel.
  • Help your child learn not to assume responsibility (or blame himself) for the behaviour of other people.
  • Teach your child the value of performing helpful tasks at family functions. Having a ‘job’ will make your child feel involved, useful, and busy! As he gets older, encourage him to volunteer his help to whoever is hosting the event.


Working with family members:

  • Remind family members gently and often that your child has a real disorder, which makes it difficult for him to manage social situations and regulate his own behaviour.
  • Explain that you have expectations for your child’s behaviour but he can’t always be held to the same standards as other kids are.
  • Recommend articles to relatives and invite them to ask you questions and express their concerns about your child’s difficulties.
  • Accept the fact that some relatives will come to appreciate and support your child’s struggle, but others may not.


Working with siblings:

Siblings of children with LD often express confusion and disappointment about getting less attention from their parents than their sibling with LD. Due in part to parents’ limited time, their energy and focus may be on helping their child with LD get through school and life. It can be difficult to manage the intense needs of a child with LD while at the same time give ample attention to the other kids in the family. Parents often feel guilty about the amount of attention and time given to their child with LD and worry about ways to balance the inequities.

Here are some ways to be creative and help your other kids feel just as special and important:

  • Dedicate one activity or part of the day on the weekend to your children who don’t have LD.
  • Spend consistent one-on-one time with your children and express how special this time is to you.
  • Celebrate the academic success of all your children even if your child with LD is doing great in school.


What, then, can parents do to help other children in the family become more accepting of a sibling who has learning disabilities? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Inform the child as honestly as possible about their brother or sister’s problem, not necessarily in terms of a label, but rather in descriptive terms at their level of understanding. Some children’s books may be used for sharing and illustration:
    • The Summer of the Swan by William Allen White (about a trumpeter swan without a voice, i.e., a learning disability)
    • Kelly’s Creek by Doris Buchanan Smith (a boy with learning disabilities who loves nature)
    • When Learning is Tough by Cynthia Roby (kids talk about their learning disabilities)
  • The Survival Guide for Kids with LD by Gary Fisher and Rhoda Cummings (practical questions and answers).
  • Acknowledge and accept the child’s feelings about her brother or sister with LD, understanding she must feel deprived of attention, jealous at times, and even resentful. Those feelings are normal and not a cause for guilt or recrimination.
  • Let your child know that he is not responsible for his sibling with LD and will only be asked to help when absolutely necessary.
  • Find ways for each child in the family to gain recognition and a feeling of self-worth.
  • Acknowledge they are separate people, appreciated and loved for who they are rather than for what they can achieve.


In other words, parents can create a safe and secure environment for siblings of children with LD by not expecting more of them than is appropriate, by informing them about learning disabilities, by answering their questions and concerns as honestly as possible, and by letting them know it is acceptable and safe to share their thoughts and feelings with you.

Adapted from Schwab Learning