Raising a child suffering from sickle-cell anemia is hard enough. Raising such a child in a family with more than one child is a real challenge. To avoid breeding resentments, follow the equity principle:
This simply means that you try to make sure that all the children are equitably served. You are going to spend a lot of money, time, energy, attention and emotion on the sick child.
In order to deal equitably with the other children, you will need to spend the same amount on them, in different ways. Here are some suggestions:
1. Children with sickle-cell anemia need lots of protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat, fish and milk, in order to facilitate blood production in the body. If you can afford to regularly provide these for the whole family, by all means do so.
If not, try to make these food items a feature of family meals as often as possible, so that the other children do not feel deprived.
Alternatively, allow the healthy children an extra helping of something else they like, if it is affordable. If the sick child requires any special juices or food supplements, allow the other children to sample these, including the unpleasant things.
2. You will spend time in hospitals and clinics with the sick child. In the interests of equity, try to schedule similar amounts of time to spend alone with the other children. You can accompany them to their hobbies (such as to football games or dance class) or just spend time alone with them.
Express interest in their activities, and in the personal challenges they are facing. Listen to them and be there for them.
3. You will spend extra money on the sick child; for food supplements, extra medicine and so on. Try to schedule extra money for the other children as well, to spend on activities or items of their choice.
Alternatively, assign them some individual privileges, unique to each child.
4. Make sure every child has a permanent place in the home, and items personal to them. If possible, every child should have their own room, or at least their own bed or sleeping space and personal items like clothes or school books.
In low-income countries, this is a real challenge. But try to implement as much of this as possible so that each child has the feeling of having an irrevocable place in the family.
5. Talk to the children, explaining the disease and its challenges to them, tailoring the facts according to their age.
Explain why the sick child needs this and that and how the child feels, but also make it clear that you would do the same for the others if they were in the same situation.
Pay the other children as much attention when they are ill as you do to the sickler. This will underscore your words that you would do the same for them.
It is a tough assignment to raise a child suffering from sickle-cell anemia along with other children. But it is doable.
A family is a place of warmth and belonging, but it also remains a hotbed of sibling rivalry for family resources.
In order to avoid breeding resentments, assign equitable (as equal as possible) portions of time, money, space, attention, emotion and other resources to the other children as you do to the sick child.
This will help turn the sickler’s siblings into allies, and not opponents.
This is good advice for any family, but especially for families in which at least one child has special needs.