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My family member has an illness or disability

Grandaughter and grandma.

If you have a family member with an illness or disability, you may face some stressful times or have extra responsibilities. But as you probably know, some great things can come from it too!

My parent, guardian, or grandparent has an illness or disability arrow top

If your parent, guardian, or grandparent has a disability or illness, your life may be a little different from your friends’ lives. You may have to do more chores, cook dinner, or help your parent, guardian, or grandparent eat or get dressed.

If you take care of a parent, guardian, sister or brother, check out our young caregivers section.

Having a parent, guardian, or grandparent with an illness or disability can be tough. For example, your parent, guardian, or grandparent may not be able to come to your sports games. But they will probably want to hear how the game went as soon as you get home. And you most likely feel more at ease with different types of people because you are used to seeing differences at home. The lessons you learn will be with you for life and will help you to be a better person.

Check out what young women whose parents have disabilities say about the tough times and the great moments:

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"My mom’s disability has also been one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with. But having a disabled parent also has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. Some examples are taking walks, driving a car, cooking dinner, and even going to work, all of which my mom can’t do. It is important not to take our lives for granted. Hardships have the potential to either pull you down or raise you up. The choice is your own. I am doing my best to rise up."
–Amanda Gallagher, PA

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"To me, the fact that at times my father is “confined” to a chair has brought nothing but good things to our lives. If he didn’t have a spinal cord injury, I would not have been able to spend every day of my childhood with him, because he would be at work. If he were not in a wheelchair, he would not have been labeled “the best daddy in the whole world” for skipping all the lines at Disneyland. If he were not in a wheelchair, he would never have become a world-class National Wheelchair Basketball Association player. Finally, if he were not in a wheelchair, he would never have met my mother. Everything in his life that he has been blessed with is a result of his “disability,” and I am sure he wouldn’t have it any other way." 
–Caitlin Thorn, NV

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"After getting a neck injury while serving in Afghanistan, my father now wakes up every day in pain. I know that life has not dealt my father the best hand, but I am very proud of him for what he has done for this country and for our family, and for helping other injured soldiers. My father has inspired me to not give up when things get bad, because if he can live with severe pain for years, then I can deal with whatever life hands me."
–Courtney Kurinec, NC

Source: The National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families at Through the Looking Glass

A disabled girl in a wheelchair. My brother or sister has an illness or disability arrow top

If you have a sibling with an illness or disability, you may feel:

  • Guilty because you don't have the same struggle
  • Lonely because you think no one gets what you're going through or because you feel that you don't get to spend much time with your parents or guardians
  • Jealous of all the attention your sister or brother gets

You may also feel:

  • Proud of your sister or brother
  • Glad that you have the chance to be helpful to someone who needs it

Having such different emotions all at the same time might seem strange. But all these feelings are normal.

Want to talk online to others who have a sister or brother who have health concerns? Check out The Sibling Support Project . You also can read stories by kids like you about their joys and challenges.

Check out what young people with disabled siblings have to say:

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"I have two younger brothers who are autistic. It doesn't bother me at all and I am not embarrassed very much. I feel bad for people who don't know how to react to them well, it makes me feel bad for them. They are the two cutest little boys I know and if others can't see it then they are missing out. Most of my friends adore my little brothers and like to see them and play with them when they are at my house. This makes me feel good because I know that people out there respect them as people and that makes me proud. I would be ashamed if I was embarrassed of my brothers."
– Maxi, Minnesota

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"I have a 10-year-old brother with mild autism. I hate it, but I deal with it."
– Elizabeth, Illinois

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"My little brother has a mental disorder. He's 11 now, but when he was younger, I was really embarrassed. Now I love him for who he is."
– Normadi Smith, Ohio

 

Content last reviewed February 16, 2011
Page last updated October 31, 2013

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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