Helpful Reminders for Parents and Other Caregivers

At stressful times, children often do what they see parents or caregivers doing. This is because children learn how to act by watching the people around them. How parents and caregivers act affects how siblings will act around the patient. It can also affect how children relate to each other.

Remember that siblings need just as much attention and support as the patient. Now and then, a brother or sister might need extra attention or support.

Talking to the patient’s siblings about illness

The patient’s brothers or sisters need information about their sibling’s illness and treatment. The information should be correct and fit the child’s age.

When you talk to the patient’s siblings, be open and honest. From time to time, a sibling might want to talk to someone about how frustrating it is to have a brother or sister who is sick. You should know that it is healthy for siblings to share feelings. Listen to your child without judging him. Let him know it is OK to have those feelings and concerns.

Ideas for specific situations:

A sibling feels like all the parent’s or caregiver’s attention goes to the patient. This is a common feeling, because the sick child does get a lot of attention and needs a lot of care. You can do the following:

A sibling feels guilty about having a sick brother or sister.

Siblings have trouble being around their sick brother or sister.

Siblings have many different feelings and emotions. Do not be surprised or upset. It is common for siblings to show anger at a brother or sister who is sick.

You have less time for family and other activities because of the patient’s medical care needs.

Siblings try to protect the sick child.

Siblings are bullied or teased because they have a brother or sister with an illness.

Siblings are worried about having friends come over.

Siblings seem worried about the future.