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Fasten Your Seatbelt
A Crash Course on Down Syndrome for Brothers and Sisters
Brian Skotko & Susan P. Levine

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isbn# 978-1-890627-86-7
6" x 9"
191 Pages
Ages 11-19

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Copyright controlled materials. Cannot be reprinted without permission of the publisher.

From Chapter 6, Detour Ahead: Sorting out your Feelings

I am so proud of my sister. How can I share my feelings with others?
Your sister has a lot to share--her funny jokes, the clarinet piece she has been practicing, her ballet moves--but are people taking notice? You know she works hard to be the best she can be, but you’re not sure other people can appreciate her smaller accomplishments. Do you think your friends will think you’re weird if you’re happy that your sister made a foul shot for the first time ever at her Special Olympics basketball game? Or brag that your sister made you a birthday card all by herself, even though nothing was spelled right?

Most of the time, your friends will sense the excitement in your voice and will be proud with you. As they get to know you and your sister, your friends will understand how important these small milestones can be.

For new friends or people who don’t know your sister that well, consider explaining it like this: “When you have Down syndrome, it’s really tough to do __________. I’m so proud of her for trying so hard and finally getting it!” if you share the news that way, your friends will see how happy you are and begin to understand that it really is a big deal. The extra benefit of sharing your sister’s accomplishments with others is that people are likely to mention it when they see her. Your sister will probably flattered with all that extra attention.

My sister can make me so angry. Is that okay?
All brothers and sisters get angry with each other from time to time. That’s the way it is in any family with more than one child, whether someone has a disability or not. Things can’t be peaceful and happy all the time. That just isn’t real life!

But your sister isn’t just any sister. She’s a sister with Down syndrome. You might be thinking that she can’t help the fact that she has Down syndrome. So when you get angry at her because she’s moving slower, or needs extra help doing things, you feel badly, like you are being extra mean. And then, you start to feel guilty as well.

Brothers and sisters with Down syndrome can be annoying, stubborn, frustrating, and noisy, as we’ve discussed in other chapters. They can be embarrassing and moody and act younger than their age. The list can go on and on. And when you are too tired, stressed, or upset, your sister can really get on your nerves. So, is it okay that you get angry or frustrated with your sister? It’s impossible to avoid feeling this way every now and then. Go ahead and relax. You’re not a mean person because you get angry. You’re human!

So how should you handle your anger? You need to express your emotion, rather than letting it build up inside. While your first instinct might be to lash out and say hurtful things, there are better ways to express your strong feelings. Using one of these strategies can help you release the anger and feel better again more quickly:

  • Stick to the facts. For example, say firmly, “I get angry when you come in my room without my permission!”
  • Express yourself by writing an angry letter to your sister or journaling in your diary. In it, you can say anything you want, letting out all of your feelings. Then, keep the letter in your drawer or throw it away. Releasing your emotions this way might help you feel better, and no one else gets hurt.
  • Draw a picture of your sibling and the frustrating situation and then rip it in a million pieces.
  • Go for a run or a long walk. Have an imaginary conversation with your sister, letting everything out.
  • Play basketball in the driveway or do something else that is physical and constructive at the same time.
  • Walk away from the situation until you cool off. When you return, you might be able to express yourself more calmly.
  • Listen to music in your room.
  • Call, text, e-mail, or chat online with a friend to let off steam.
  • Talk to your parents about your anger. If the situation keeps occurring, maybe you can brainstorm solutions together.
  • Find a sibling group or a brothers-and-sisters workshop where you can meet with other siblings who understand.

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