Family Life: My kids just won’t get along!

Stuck in the House

Sometimes brothers and sisters love each other, and it is so sweet. Siblings do much better if they can get a break from one another. I think this is a fact we can all agree on, yet these days, we do not have that option.

A scenario that is common for a child with autism is for social symptoms to become more obvious when a sibling is born. Often, parents report that their older child is consistently too rough with the baby, doesn’t understand the perspective of having a younger sibling, and hates that the baby has different rules than they do. Many kids on the Spectrum struggle to take the perspective of someone else. Understanding that a baby is too young to be intentionally breaking your tower or to follow some of those same rules like “stay seated at the dinner table until we are finished” requires taking the perspective of other members of the family.

One thing that can help a child with ASD to understand some of these differences is to put it out there visually. Make a chart or picture with images that set the rules and expectations.

In this example, Max is the older child with ASD, and Sarah is his younger sibling. Max needs clear guidelines for how Sarah has different expectations, and he needs to see some of the advantages of being older. Setting physical boundaries or rules can also help so separation, when needed, doesn’t seem like a punishment. 

Sample Rules and Permissions

Max gets to stay up later than Sarah (8:30 versus 8)

Max can watch Paw Patrol with Mom at 2pm (Sarah’s nap) and Sarah does not

Max can play ball in the backyard while Sarah needs mommy to watch her

Sarah does not have to sit at the dinner table (she can play on the floor)

If Sarah knocks over towers and takes toys, Mommy will help, call Mommy if Sarah is getting in Max’s toy space

Sarah can play in the living room, Max decides if Sarah is allowed in his bedroom (supervision needed)

Max needs to ask to go in Sarah’s room, this is her space

Choose some basic rules and distinctions and try to enforce those, often stating and reminding how everyone is different and many rules change with age.

Some rules are house rules that are the same for everyone.

These are rules like…

Use safe hands

Use kind words

Get help from an adult

When a whole family is stuck together much of the time, it is going to be hard and emotions will run high.

Try to avoid scenarios of sharing toys, TV, tablets, etc., when you can.

Try to talk about feelings and things that have been hard and things that have been good each day. Model your own feelings and adjustments and compromises and thank your kids for doing that too.

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