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How much do you think it's fair to ask of siblings?

(45 Posts)
jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 07:46:56

Something I've been pondering as ds2 is getting older (he's 6 now and quite sensible). DS3 is still a it young but this will become relevant to him in the future.

DS2 is now of an age where he can help me a bit with ds1. For example yesterday I was trying to cook dinner - and ds1 was upstairs. I know he's climbing at the dodgy windows all the time at the moment, so he needs constant checking. But I can't cook and walk up 3 flights of stairs repeatedly so I asked ds2 to run upstairs and check whether ds1 was climbing for me (he was, so I got him down).

This little routine/this type of thing can happen repeatedly - and ds2 did at one stage huff 'it's ALWAYS me that gets asked to do this'. Which is true it is. I would never ask him to go upstairs and generally watch ds1 because that would be too much responsibility for a 6 year old, and the consequences of ds1 falling through the window whilst ds2 played on his DS or something would be too awful.

But how much is it OK to ask a sibling to help. Obviously as he gets older there'll be more he can us with (ds3 too), so how much do you get them to do.

Other opinions/experiences welcomed as it's something I can't work out.

MmeLindt Tue 08-Jul-08 07:55:50

Hmm, something Ì wonder about sometimes too.

DD is 6yo and also quite sensible and I do rely on her to keep an eye on DS (4yo and getting more sensible)

Actually, rely is probably the wrong word, she keeps an eye on him but I would not want her to have that kind of responsibility.

Once they were old enough to climb/open windows, we put window locks on. I don't know if that is an option for you?

Asking her to make sure that DS does not write on walls is ok though.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 08:11:37

They have locks on- but are very dangerously crap. He stands up on the tiny window ledge and leans against the very thin glass. Social services agreed about a year ago to fund replacements via a disabled facilities grant but have then been bloody awkward difficult at every stage. They're getting their next chasing call tomorrow and we're heading towards a level 2 complaint if something isn't sorted by the end of the week.

I am going to have to get a lock on the bedroom doors to stop him going in- but it's a shame as one of the rooms is ds2 and ds3's bedroom so they won't have access unsupervised.

He does this sort of thing everywhere though. So if they're outside and I'm in the kitchen (can see him but not necessarily all the time) I ask ds2 to keep an eye in case ds1 starts climbing the fence (which again he does all the time) or tries to get onto the 1st floor balcony - and I don't think there is a way to make that safe other than supervision.

Because my direct payment hours have been reduced I'm going to have even less supervision available this year so am going to have to ask more of ds2.

I'm not entirely comfortable with it tbh, but am not sure what the alternative is.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 08:12:01

the windows are dangerously crap- not the locks!

hamsterlover Tue 08-Jul-08 10:34:03

Have you thought of key pad locks for the doors - the ones where you put a code in. Don't know if your DS1 would be able to copy the code and open them or not but if he couldn't then might be a way of locking the doors whilst allowing the others access.

hamsterlover Tue 08-Jul-08 10:35:15

Jim Jams -
Have you thought of key pad locks for the doors - the ones where you put a code in. Don't know if your DS1 would be able to copy the code and open them or not but if he couldn't then might be a way of locking the doors whilst allowing the others access.

pagwatch Tue 08-Jul-08 11:53:52

my eldest DS is 15 now and I have had to ponder this a great deal and I think I have some conclusions but not sure how true and accurate they are.grin

Ds1 is expected to help where his help reduces the burden ( especially physically)on me.
My overwhelming urge when he was smaller was to protect him and not burden him but as he has grown up I have realised what a nonsense this was.
TBH my view is that he loves his brother, we help each other and shit happens( alpologies to the cliche thread !).
As he has become older he appreciates our signals to him that he has a shared responsibility and that we trust and respect him. He has always helped with getting drinks and things from when DS2 was small. He learnt how to make gfcf cakes etc when he was younger and he helps DS2 find hs lost things and helps when he is having trouble with computer etc. That has increased as they have both got older into other areas. DS1 babysits now and will also be responsible for getting DS2 onto his bus in the mornings in future.

The upside for him ( as he well knows) is that we treat him with a great level of trust as a direct result. He gets treats in terms of outings just with us and is given a lot of independence as we feel he has earnt it.
My view is that sibs grow up faster and that is crap. But if they must then they may as well get some of the benefits.
We have had to start having conversations with him about DS2's care after we have gone - because he wants to talk about it.
The hard thing to make him understand is that his decisions must be about the best choices for everyone. He knows that we would be very upset with him indeed if he creates a future where DS2's happiness is achieved by the sacrific of his own.

Longwinded I know - as usual.
But my experience is that children should help. they get a sense of being part of their sibs care and that seems to reduce rather than increase their sense of burden/resentment. But they must be talked to about it. Their committment to their sib must be recognised and to an extent rewarded.
Our need to help our child is overwhemling but we are adults. Our kids I think need to know that we get that they didn't choose this and the fact that they committ to their sib is a great thing to do whilst it is also the right thing to do.
Does that make any sense?

I could ask DS1 to post?

r3dh3d Tue 08-Jul-08 13:37:37

Well, will (as usual) burn this bridge when I come to it - but my gut feel is that a sib's life is already significantly "different" as a result of sharing a life with the SN offspring. Asking them to keep an eye out or whatever is just another chore like unloading the dishwasher - it's a household task that has to be done and we share it out. Kids do less than parents, but all the same they have to help.

I think you start to cross a line when the child becomes a "carer"; when they come home from school to a full-time job. Not that that is wrong per se, sometimes it's the right or the only answer eg if the parent is disabled. But it's something you'd rather avoid and something you'd feel bad about if the child had to be co-erced into it (whereas co-ercing them into emptying the dishwasher - or checking on DS1 - is not just routine but expected.)

I dunno. Maybe someone who has a child who does more heavy-duty caring can comment on whether I'm talking out of my bum?

anxiousmax Tue 08-Jul-08 13:49:43

For us ds2 is the one with sn, so i think ds1 see's his big brotherly role as normal iykwim.

I do try to get ds1 to help in a positive way as ds2 often responds to ds1 more than he does to dh & I. So I will say ds2 look can you put your shoes on like ds1.

Although ds1 is very good at watching ds2 when they are in the garden ds1 seems to always be there when ds2 is going to fall.
The neighbours must also be fed up of hearing him shout ds2 stop licking the fence you'll get splinters.

So far ds has not seen it (i don't think) as a chore or a burden but he is only 8. As long as it is not stopping him doing something he wants (playing with friends etc) I think it is just a good lesson in kindness & consideration.

I do tend to get more tutts & sighs if I ask him to clear the table, I think thats just normal tho. smile

MmeLindt Tue 08-Jul-08 13:55:17

Ah, I did not notice that this was a SN topic, although I think I have read about your window problem. That is disgraceful that you still do not have the new windows. FGS. are they goign to wait until your DS falls out of a window? angry

I don't have any experience of life with a SN child or sibling, but I liked Pagwatch's approach.

At the end of the day, your DS2 loves his brother and will see protecting his brother as something positive, even if it is sometimes frustrating for him.

Hope you get the windows sorted out soon. I expect that you have tried all the usual complaint procedures, what about your MP? Would he be able to help? How would you feel about going to the press?

luckylady74 Tue 08-Jul-08 14:05:53

I appreciate your situation is harder than mine Jimjams, but I have thought about this a lot from our family perspective and I honestly think that as Pagwatch says shit happens and a family sticks together. I fully expect my twins to look out for ds1 if necessary when he's an adult and I'm too old/dead. My mum thinks this is a dreadful burden, but I can't see the difference between that and the fact that I'll look after my mum if she needs it when she's older.
At present it's equal in our house - ds1 adores telling tales on the twins and they give him cuddles if he's upset (sadly something he won't accept off me sad).
What you're describing sounds like a perfectly ordinary sibling task - I was often told to go and tell my older brother to get out of the tree in our garden.

FioFio Tue 08-Jul-08 14:31:57

Message withdrawn

cyberseraphim Tue 08-Jul-08 14:36:59

We'll just see how things go - DS2 - NT is the younger one so it will be a while before he can help out but I would hopefully neither 'force' him or 'prevent' him. So far they are brilliant together - DS2 is the only child DS1 calls by name and is very caring towards him. My mum is a bit like LL74's as she tends to say things like 'Poor little DS2, he just has to get on with things...'

nooka Tue 08-Jul-08 15:00:41

I suspect it also depends on the child, and on their relationship with their disabled siblings. I think that my nephew probably does resent his SN siblings at times, and the effect they have on his life. I've certainly seen him being fairly mean to them at times. But he is quite an angry person, and having two siblings with severe (but very different) disabilities and no NT siblings to share that with must be difficult. On the other hand my sister tells me that he has himself befriended other children with SNs, so maybe I'm just getting a different picture when I see him (and he is a teenager now, so entitled to be angry, I guess).

mshadowsisfab Tue 08-Jul-08 15:17:18

ds does loads, but that is how he earns his pocket money. he doesn't have to do any chores.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 17:43:39

Gosh lots to think about. Thanks for all these replies, really useful. Will ponder over bathtime and post later.

On a positive front - got home from work to a message on the answer phone from the OT- she apparently has some good news for me. So the window saga may be drawing to a conclusion.....

ChasingSquirrels Tue 08-Jul-08 17:57:18

I know this is a SN thread, and you are posting from the pov of a younger sibling - but is this really any different (maybe in terms of degree yes) than an older sibling being asked to check on, look out for etc a younger one?
My ds1 is frequently asked to check up on his younger brother - not because ds2 is SN, but because he is 2.
My uncle (X) has down's and he has 3 older (much) siblings and a younger (4 yrs) brother (Y). They were older than me growning up but I remember Y having to take responsibily for X.
And not, they are (obviously) all grown up, their parents are dead, and the siblings continue to have an element of responsibility (ok - well my mum does, the younger bro does a bit and the other 2 are totally uninvolved).

2shoes Tue 08-Jul-08 18:54:17

in a way yes I do think it is different when the sibling has sn.
dd is 13 and the level of care she needs will never lesson. if she was nt it would. so ds will always be one of her "carers".

ChasingSquirrels Tue 08-Jul-08 18:59:31

On the continuation of the need for care - definately, as I noted in my last line.
But at a young age? I'm not sure.
And every family is different, every child has demands made on them, these are just the demands made by your family situation.
The OP recognises that she is asking the other sibs to help out, she is concious of not putting too much expectation on them (or comes across that way in her post), and she is looking for advice/experience to help her manage this - those kids are going to be way more sorted than many others in this life!

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 19:37:37

I think its a different sort of care as well. DS2 gets asked to keep an eye on ds3, but that generally means playing with him, not being asked to stop him climbing, or tell me when he's hitting himself or judge when he's doing something very dangerous. DS3 tells me as well (and tells ds1 to 'get down' - the trouble with ds3 is that he then tries to pull ds1 down off a fence- aged 3 it's a bit much, ds1 towers above him).

I was thinking before I read your post 2shoes that as ds2 and ds3 get older (teens), if I leave them to watch ds1 at all I will be able to pay them.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 19:44:01

ds2 has told me that he wants to live with ds1 when he's grown up so he won't have to get married and live with a girl (yuk)

ChasingSquirrels Tue 08-Jul-08 19:48:53

I will bow to your experience on this. Just wanted to point out that you would be relying on them anyway (to an extent) if you have more than 1.
lol at girls.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 20:01:19

Yeah I do know what you mean. I been to parties where lots of older siblings are helping their younger siblings with SN and I wonder whether this situation feels a bit 'wrong' to me because I'm asking a 6 year old to care for a 9 year old iyswim.

I think I'll find it easier when they're teens and I can offer them a proper paid job to do it.

I remember reading a book where a mother had 3 boys - one was very profoundly disabled and her dh died. Her son who was in his 20's had to switch universities so he could live at home to help out his mum with his sibling until they were able to get him into residential care a few years later.. I think he offered, and there really was no other choice- it was a definite 2 person job, but the dynamic of that has always stayed with me.

ChasingSquirrels Tue 08-Jul-08 20:07:09

my uncle (with down's as I mentioned earlier) lived with my mum and dad for a number of years after my grandad died.
Just at the time of live that my parent's had got rid of their own children (I has just left uni and started my first job).
My dad promised my grandma (his MIL) when she was dying that when it became necessary he and my mum would look after my uncle.
My uncle eventually went to live with someone who looks after him as a living in her own home (probably a name for this, I have no idea).
My mum and dad did alot for my uncle, the other siblings did very very little. I know my mum has often felt that they have let her and my uncle down.
I guess I have never thought about the fact that the youngest brother would have had a much greater impact during his childhood/teens.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Tue 08-Jul-08 20:16:25

I've always remembered something that Davros said on here- that she hopes that her dd will care about rather than for her brother. And that's what I do tell ds2 and ds3 even at this young age- that I want them to look out for ds1 and make sure he's properly cared for, but I don't want them to do it. They'll have their own lives to lead.

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