Tips for Families Helping Siblings Cope
Tips for Families Helping Siblings Cope
Helping Siblings Cope with the Health Care Experience

Siblings often have many different feelings when a brother or sister is receiving medical care. Each sibling may react differently to their brother's or sister's illness or injury. Some common reactions siblings may have include:

  • Guilt-siblings may feel that they are to blame for their brother or sister being in the hospital or being sick. They may think that something they did or said caused the illness/injury to happen.
  • Fear - siblings may worry that their brother's or sister's illness or injury will happen to them.
  • Jealousy - siblings may feel left out when the ill/injured child receives more care and attention from other family members.
  • Anger - siblings may be angry or upset about the changes at home and in their normal daily routine that the illness/injury has created.
  • Neglect - siblings may feel that their parent/guardian no longer loves or cares for them when more time is spent with the ill/injured child.

You know your children best and how they cope with change. Decide how much information you want to share with them.

What siblings may be imagining about their brother or sister could be much scarier than the truth. Be open, be honest and allow siblings to ask questions.

Before a sister or brother visits the hospital for the first time, make sure the sibling understands what the hospital is and what the nurses and doctors do. Explain some of the medical equipment that they will see in a way that they can understand. A Child Life Specialist can help to do this and can help make the visit more comfortable. Children's storybooks about the hospital are also helpful.

When siblings are unable to visit the hospital, they can keep in touch with their brother or sister by sending drawings, letters, photos and home videos.

Keep a normal routine as much as possible. Encourage siblings to go to school and take part in normal activities. Spend time together away from the hospital.

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