It’s not easy to parent multiple children. Adding autism to the mix makes a parent’s job even more challenging. With a few tips, however, you can rise to the challenge and provide balanced parenting for all of the children in your family.
When you have younger children who are not affected with autism, they may not understand some of the behavior of your child with autism. Some behaviors may confuse or frighten young children. Tailor your explanation to what your young child can understand. If your child with autism, for instance, does not like to be touched, just explain to your young children that their sibling has different likes and dislikes.
Older siblings may become jealous of the extra time you need to spend tending to the needs of your child with autism. Make it a point to set aside extra time for your older child without autism. You can even spend these times doing activities that their sibling with autism may find uncomfortable, such as rides at an amusement park, laser tag, or attending loud concerts.
Sometimes older siblings have the opposite reaction. They channel their energy into helping their sibling with autism. Be careful, though. You may appreciate the extra help, but your child may get burned out, even resentful if you don’t make sure that the child without autism has plenty of time just to be a kid. Play is important for children’s emotional health, so provide plenty of opportunities for all of your children.
One on one time with each child is essential
Children’s needs are as unique as they are. That means that parents need to nurture their children’s interests as best as their financial situation allows. One on one time is a great way to ensure that each child’s need for parental time devoted entirely to him or her.
Spending this precious time doing activities that the child chooses can nurture the parent-child relationship while building the child’s prowess in areas that can lead to lifelong interests, perhaps even a career.
Especially in families in which autism is an issue, one on one time with each child is essential to keep rivalry at a minimum. Children without autism can fall through the cracks if parents do not devote plenty of time to meeting their needs.
One on one time for kids without autism can be spent doing activities that the children who have autism wouldn’t enjoy, such as laser tag, loud concerts, or fast amusement park rides. Doing so will ensure that the children without autism won’t miss out on any important childhood memories.
During one on one time, allow your children to express their feelings without fear of reprimand. Be an active listener that rephrases what your children say in your own words to make sure that you have understood what your children are really saying. “I feel” statements help you avoid saying things that your kids will perceive as judgmental.
Explain the needs of each child to the others
Autism is a complex condition. Communication is the key to helping children not affected by autism to understand their siblings who have autism.
Family rules need to be simple and easy to follow. Consistency is essential when enforcing the rules.
Children without autism should understand that their sibling with autistic spectrum disorder will not enjoy some of the things that they do. Your child’s therapist can help you communicate these key differences to your children without autism.
Make room for down time
Although it is important for parents to participate in the educational process for their child with autism, it is also as important for parents to spend quality time with their child doing non-educational activities. Playing, listening to music together, or just taking long walks together can help parents develop a closer relationship to all of their children.
Encourage children in their special interests
A great way to bond with your child who has autism is to learn about areas of keen interest to your child. Ask questions and allow your child to teach you about his or her special interest. That will develop confidence and leadership skills in your child.
Get support from professionals, family, and friends
Your child’s team of therapists and other professionals are a great source of support and information. Learn to communicate your needs to your family and friends. Ask them for support as you advocate for your child’s needs.
Allow kids to share privileges and responsibilities
Whether your children are on the autism spectrum or not, they need to have opportunities to develop responsibility. Chores are a great way to help your children to develop skills that can help them during their lives. Give your children the power to choose menu items for the week’s dinners, and they’ll feel as if they have a stake in the health of their family.
Choose family activities and outings that the whole family can enjoy
Strong bonds between parents and children, as well as healthy relationships among siblings have a huge impact on a child’s emotional and social well-being. A great way to nurture these relationships is to find family activities that everyone enjoys doing.
Families who have children with autism can enjoy family trips to the beach or to the park during times that crowds are smaller. Trips to the zoo or museums during off-peak hours also can be fun activities for families affected by autism. Watching movies and TV programs together at home, making craft projects, or playing board games with easy-to-understand rules, as well as doing outdoor tasks together, such as planting a garden or raking leaves, all help to strengthen the ties among family members.