By Cynthia Haddad, CFP®
It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong role for a sibling to play within a family and that it often changes over time. From an early age, siblings need the chance to voice their own ideas about the roles they want within the family, whether they want to be playmates, confidantes, caregivers, or none of the above. Discussion — and lots of it — is key.
Involving siblings in proactive planning has benefits for siblings, parents, and the rest of the family, particularly as siblings reach high school age. An important effect of discussions at this point in time is that it may alleviate concerns about future residential and work arrangements when parents are no longer able to provide care.
Here are some suggestions on how to structure meetings and potential discussion points:
Create a plan – it may or may not be a written document but everyone should have a say in it and agree to it.
– It can be a Financial Plan, an Estate Plan, a Person Centered Plan, a Life Care Plan, or an informal statement of the vision that the family understands.
– Encourage the use of a Letter of Intent– which is not a legal document, but provides all of the important information about the child’s life, the government benefits and services, the people, the routines, the likes and dislikes, and other helpful information that mostly only a parent knows. This is good to have in one document for future caregivers and siblings. Of course, it should be updated with any important changes or at least annually.
Identify each person’s goal/interest in involvement.
Begin planning discussions early (high school or before). But it is never too late.
If the plan includes the transition of primary guardianship to the sibling, it must also include all the steps necessary to ensure that transition is successful.
Make it a working plan that can be changed – siblings should feel like they can change their mind.
While proactive planning outcomes for siblings are underexplored in research, anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that siblings benefit from learning about options when parents transition their support role to other family members.
You can learn more about Cindy and her practice by visiting https://affiniafg.com/our-team/cynthia-haddad/.