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When one of your children has TS/TS+ and the other(s) don’t

Sibling rivalry, brothers and sisters fighting like cats and dogs, complaining, crying – does this sound like your house?


Having one or more children with Tourette or Tourette Syndrome Plus can make things even more challenging! In this post, we will go through challenges you might experience when one of your kids has a medical condition. We’ll share some strategies to help make things easier and hopefully, more peaceful at home.


  1. Giving Praise

Sometimes, you want to praise one of your children, but you don’t want this to make the other(s) feel bad. This is especially hard when you have a child who struggles with self-esteem due to TS.

Try to praise qualities, not people. When you give praise, use a similar tone and phrases for each child. Don’t make your praise more sincere or excited for one over the other. Compliment progress not just achievements. Give your children positive feedback for doing cooperative activities together. Focus on what your children each do well. Avoid saying “well your brother can do it, so can you” or “when they were your age they could…”. Comparisons are often unhelpful. Encourage your kids to support and praise each other.


  1. One sibling is embarrassed by the other

When one child tics or acts impulsively, their siblings could be embarrassed or uncomfortable.

This is a tough one. A good first step is to get your children involved in activities that will build both of their self-esteems. You may want to get them both involved in Tourette Canada activities and event such as the National Conference’s Children’s Program or a family fun event that your Chapter or Resource Unit is putting on. There are lots of videos and books you can read together – check out atrandom.ca or tourette.ca for suggestions. Finally talk to them about their feelings and help them to feel empowered. Explain that they are an important part of their sibling’s support system. Teach them to be confident self-advocates. This may take time and will come more easily to some and not to others. Model the behaviour and attitudes that you want your children to have, give fair, developmentally acceptable consequences, and redirect the focus from negative to positive if you can.


  1. One says they “hate” the other

You want your children to love each other and get along, but they say “I hate you” to their brother or sister. They fight and bicker often.

There are many different approaches to this problem. Remember that, as a parent, you know your kids best. Tailor your approach to your kids’ interests, feelings, and unique characteristics. Make time for family bonding. Take turns picking what you do together. Encourage your kids to see each other as people to have fun with not just people to live with or put up with. Give them space from one another and don’t push things too hard. It is normal to not always get along especially when you are around each other so often. Talk with your kids about what it means to be siblings. Model healthy sibling relationships if you can by interacting with other families and your own siblings. Support your kids in doing nice things for each other.


  1. “I don’t want my sibling to come!”


A brother or sister can somethings feel like their sibling is always the centre of attention. They may want their own time to be the main focus and as a result, they say they don’t want their sibling to come to their game/performance/party etc. It could also be that they don’t like it when other people see their sibling tic or behave differently.

The first step in tackling this challenge is to figure out the real issue. Why does your child feel this way? Talk to them in safe space, one-on-one. Let them know that they won’t get in trouble for saying how they really feel. Next, ask them for ideas for solving the problem. Give your own suggestions and then come up with a plan.  If your son or daughter want a chance to shine, perhaps it is okay for them to attend the event without their sibling, especially if there will be other opportunities for your children to attend together. If your child is uncomfortable about their sibling’s tics or other symptoms, you may want to help your son or daughter to better explain their brother or sister’s condition to others. Talk to coaches, other parents, friends, and instructors if appropriate. Help your son or daughter with TS to manage their tics at the event (this may mean sitting near the door or at the back, depending on your preferences and comfort level).


  1. “You always go easy on them!”

If one child has exceptionalities like tics, ADHD, OCD, or anxiety, and the other doesn’t, you may have different expectations for each person. This can be hard for kids to understand and can lead to resentment, fighting, and back-talk as they feel this treatment is unbalanced and unfair.

Solving this one can be tricky depending on the age of your children. Try explaining this situation by talking about other ways that you treat your kids differently – does one have allergies, is one afraid of something the other isn’t, does one have different food preferences? This can be a good way of beginning a discussion about differences and fair not meaning equal.  Ask your son or daughter to think about what it would feel like if they had tics or other conditions. Ask them how they would want to be treated. Ask them to think about a time when they have been sick and how they were given particular treatment or help. Let your child know that you respect them and their feelings and that you will work to address the situation. It isn’t always 100% your child’s fault, you may need to make some adjustments too. Reflect on your own behaviours and choices and work to make things as fair (not equal) as you can.


  1. “They’re better than me at everything!”

One child excels, it seems, at everything. The other feels that they aren’t good at anything. Add Tourette into the mix and you have a very tough situation.

Everyone is different and this includes different strengths and weaknesses. Encourage your children in their efforts to explore their strengths and interests. Help them to work on their weaknesses. Build into your schedule time for activities that will highlight the strengths of each child. Don’t compare siblings. Value each child for who they are and what they can do that is special.


Are these strategies helpful to you?

What works best for your family?

What is your family’s biggest challenge?

1 Comment

  1. Tiffany Garcia says:

    My 15 year old has tics, motor and verbal. Her verbal tics are mean sometimes. Telling her 5 year old brother (and me) that he’s stupid or a twink or I hate you or shut up. She does the same to her 3 year old sister. I was just looking for how do I explain to them she doesn’t mean it. It’s not what she really means. They fall into her tics and when she’s in a tic and says shut up to them they reply shut up back because they think it’s funny and a game but it spirals her into a tic fit. She smacks them or kicks them. I just need to know how to explain to the two littles that it’s not a game and that she doesn’t mean what she says. Please. Any advice would help.

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