F.A.Q.’s about Sibling Support Groups

What is the format of the group?  The S.N.I.F.F. Sibling Support Groups are HIGHLY interactive.  This means that all participants are encouraged to ask questions, share their own opinions, engage others in games and activities, and to genuinely reflect on their OWN experiences as part of their own learning.  However, this level of participation is achieved slowly, by letting each person reach their own levels of comfort with the group and materials. 

Can my child with special needs attend too?  Part of the magic created by the S.N.I.F.F. Sibling Support series comes from families shifting their focus away from the child with special needs, and onto the siblings and parents.  As such, to help protect the significance of the evening for the “sibling children”, parents are asked to arrange for a sitter to attend to their children with special needs for all SNIFF classes. In some communities, alternative programming is made available for the children with Special Needs, so that the whole family can “arrive” then “leave” together, but children with special needs are not included in the Sibling Support Groups program.

Why do I need to attend; isn’t this just for the ‘Siblings’?  One of the primary aims of the S.N.I.F.F. Sibling Support series is to strengthen families as a whole.  This means helping EVERYONE in the family to become skilled and better connected with each other.  Parental involvement in each class is vital to fostering growth in the sibling, encouraging family dialogue, nurturing healthy coping, and modeling openness to self-exploration.

What happens if I can’t be there every night?  While it is best for the same parent to attend all eight nights with their sibling child, it is acceptable for parents to ‘trade off’ (when necessary), where one spouse steps in on an evening when the other is not available. 

I have more than one ‘Sibling’?  The charities behind the S.N.I.F.F. Sibling Support Groups want to see as many children and families supported as possible.  As such, we are happy to welcome more than one ‘sibling child’ with one parent.  Similarly, more than one parent may attend with one (or more) sibling.   We can make nearly any combination work.

What are the limits on the group? Can “anyone” attend?  The S.N.I.F.F. Sibling Support Groups are intended to be “therapeutic groups” where all guests are encouraged to participate in all activities, games, discussions, and reflections.  As such, many children under the age of 7 are not able to fully participate in such conversations.  Similarly, some children with significant attention problems, or with poor self-control, are not suitable for the group.  All registered participants are pre-screened via phone call before the first night to explore the parent’s opinions about suitability. 

What happens after the 8-week group is finished?  Is there follow up?  Families who have completed the core 8-week Sibling Support Group are invited to attend an ongoing community of other S.N.I.F.F. families.  This group functions as a “drop in” and typically meets once a month for 9 months of the year.  In this group, the core topics are revisited, enabling parents and siblings to refresh and deepen their understandings and insights of each while meeting a growing community of Special Needs families.