If you are 13-19 and have a brother or sister with a disability, you’ve come to the right place.
You are not alone. Other siblings share many of the feelings and experiences that you do.
Some siblings have very close relationships with their brother or sister with disability or illness. They share fun times and are able to be just like any other siblings. But some siblings have a more difficult time.
Here you will be able to:
- Read some stories from other teen sibs
- Join our online communities for teen sibs
- Find other supports
Being a Teen Sib
During your teen years there is a lot to consider. You might be wanting to be more independent, form long term friendships, complete studies and think about what you will do after school. These years can be even more challenging when your brother or sister has a disability.
Whilst you might love and care deeply about them, you might have developed feelings such as:
- Sadness about your brother or sister and the things he or she can’t do
- Feeling hurt or resentful that your parents spend so much time with or focused on your brother or sister
- You may feel that your feelings don’t matter to anyone else, that you are not as important as others in the family.
- Anger and or embarrassment about how your brother or sister behaves
- Guilt about your own abilities and successes
- Fears about the future and who will care for your brother or sister
- Concerns about creating your own family
On the one hand, you might be trying to become more independent but at times that might seem difficult. You may have a close family, which of course is wonderful, but you might feel overly responsible for other family members and feel hesitant about independence.
Teen Sib Stories
Below are some thoughts written by teen sibs of their experiences growing up:
Being a sibling has its advantages and disadvantages like most things. When things get on top of me I have trouble working out the advantages. I have a brother who has Aspergers syndrome who is 12 years old. He is often violent, aggressive and always shouting and yelling. He is embarrassing to go out with and I often feel ashamed in front of people.
People who don’t know about his problem always stare at us in public, make rude gestures and talk about us behind our back. When I was in primary school, I always lost friends because of his behaviour. He always steals my stuff and goes into my things. On a rare occasion we get on and they are nice moments that I wish we had more often. I think that having a sibling website is a good idea. I think it would be a good chance for other siblings to talk to each other through chats.
I am 18 years old with 2 Autistic Siblings. I left school with a year 12 certificate but without a UAI, and got a job in an office and moved out of home. I wanted to be a Physiotherapist. Studying and time management are difficult when you have an Autistic sibling. My 10 year old sister is severely autistic and she needs an eye on her every second of the day; she likes stripping to her nappy and running down the main road.
My 12 year old brother’s behavioural problems are incontrollable at times. When I was living at home, I spent as much time away as I could. I got a job at a fast food chain and took all the shifts I could, I would go to work an hour early just so that I could deep breath and have some peace and quiet before I started.
I don’t think anyone really understands how difficult it is for siblings. Even my extended family says to me “your poor Mum”, and I think what about me? But what’s worse is when people ask “what’s going to happen to your brother when he gets bigger, or if something happens to your parents?” I feel so guilty, but I know that unless he starts improving, he will have to be institutionalised. My brother is 12 years old and roughly 5’4″, he is heavier than me and has bigger feet (he went through a stage of stealing my shoes, but now he can’t get them on. They are size 8 women’s.)
I wish I could say that it gets easier when you get older. It doesn’t, but you can learn to deal with it. In regards to studying, don’t quit. It’s not the easy way out!! Make sure you have a quiet place you can go, even the library. A boyfriend’s or friend’s house is not the best option, you always get distracted.
My little sister has cerebral palsy and she may never walk. I am only twelve years old and still am confused at what this is. The doctors don’t really know how she got this disability. My younger sister is beautiful with a strong heart but I feel so upset at times because she knows that she is different and wants to be like the other children. Every day she always comes up to me and my mother and says “I love you” or “are u proud of me.” I was at a stage where all I did was cry and was threatening to hurt myself.
When I found out the terrible news about her disability I didn’t know what to think because I always said to myself “nothing happens to my family”. Girls at school and people around me always ask me questions about my 5 year old sister. I know they only want to be nice but I hate it when they ask. We fight like normal sisters and I’m proud of that but then again there is nothing normal.
I do hurt inside but I have never shown that to anyone before. I have good and bad times but I always pull through and that is the help of my sister. If anyone has a sibling that has a disability you will feel horrible, sad and confused but as u grow you will feel a small spark inside of you and that spark will turn into a huge flame of fire and then you will realise that there is hope, love and never give up.
Growing up as a teen sib was a challenging experience. Arriving at the high school that my sister had already attended for two years, I was immediately recognised by teachers and older students as ‘Carly’s brother’ which at times presented the challenge and question of would I ever escape that title. Being a teenager and finding yourself can be complex enough without people defining you by somebody else from day 1. Having to assist Carly in carrying her bag on and off the bus each day came with both staring and patronising praise from other students, “Oh you’re such a good brother” I’d hear regularly. But to me, I was just helping my sister, as any of them would do for their brother or sister.
I’d attended the local sibs program as a kid and was fortunately able to return to it as a teenager. This provided the familiarity that it always had, being around people that were in the same sort of position as me, but being that bit older allowed for genuine, mature conversations to take place that have developed into relationships that I value to this day. Being able to connect with other teen sibs and feel the support that was always there no matter the activity or event was an indescribably positive experience.
Connect with others
Siblings Australia has had contact with many teen siblings who say it’s great when they are able to connect with each other as they feel they are able to relate to each other’s experiences.
- Sibling Mental Health Factsheet – developed in partnership with Centacare’s Navigate Program for siblings of a brother or sister with a mental illness but is suitable for all sibs
- Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, and provides early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds.
- Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free (even from a mobile), confidential 24/7 online and phone counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.