A new viral TikTok trend calling out the “glass child syndrome” is flooding the social media platform with content creators sharing heart-breaking videos after feeling neglected growing up. The term ‘glass child’ refers to children who have grown up alongside a sibling with a disability and had their upbringing impacted as a result.
The term ‘glass child’ was popularised by Alicia Maples, who spoke about her own experience as a glass child during a Ted Talk in 2010. Maples had a sibling with autism.
Hordes of videos have started appearing on Tiktok alongside the audio with the lyrics: “Did you get enough love, my little love?”. Meanwhile, creators who consider themselves” glass children” have taken to the social media site to talk about their own experiences.
Tiktokers such as @umcasey have shared what it was like growing up with a sibling with a disability. She shared a video to show both sides of ‘glass child syndrome’.
She wrote: “I may be a glass child but I got to meet the cast of Wizards of Waverly place for my sister’s wish trip and do tea parties with my grandma while she was doing chemo.
“Yeah my mom didn’t pay me as much attention but I also don’t have literal cancer.”
Another Tiktoker, who is also a family therapist, shared an explanation for the trend. Whitney Goodman (whitneygoodmanlmft) said: “If you grew up with a sibling who had a disability or was struggling in some way. They may have had a chronic illness or were just taking up a disproportionate amount of your parent’s energy; you might be considered what is known as a glass child.”
What is a glass child?
Glass children are siblings of a person who has a disability. The word glass is chosen to describe them because people tend to see right through them and focus only on the person with the disability. In addition, these children may appear to be strong, but in reality, they may not be at all. People should be aware that they could be fragile and special care and attention should be paid to them.
According to a 2022 journal article on the subject, siblings of disabled or chronically ill children are often hidden family members and their support needs might not be met.
What are the traits of a glass child?
Glass children can often take on adult-like responsibilities within their families from an early age as they attempt to support their parents and sibling. As a result, they can grow up, and become more mature, much quicker than their peers. Glass children can often feel like their physical and mental needs are overlooked as their parents and carers must spend a disproportionate amount of time looking after their sibling. Current research, however, is limited in its understanding of the glass child’s lived experiences.