Sibling Support

Sometimes when one child in a family has health care needs, brothers or sisters may have many troubling feelings such as sadness, worry, anger or guilt. At times parents think this is their fault, but this isn't the case. In fact, it's normal for brothers and sisters to experience many conflicting feelings when they have a sibling who is ill or has special health care needs.

Some ways feelings are expressed

Often children don't know how to talk about their feelings. They express themselves in other ways such as:

  • a change in eating habits (eating more or less)
  • becoming quiet
  • spending time alone or away from family members
  • poner mucho empeño en complacer a los padres o a otros adultos.
  • acting out by not listening, fighting or even hitting others
  • buscar más afecto que lo normal.
  • returning to younger behaviors, such as bed wetting, "baby talk" or thumb sucking
  • saying that they feel sick or acting like the sick child

Los hermanos pueden sentirse:

  • sad: because they miss you and the sick child.

  • lonely and left out: These feelings may arise when brothers or sisters are spending more time than usual away from their parents or alone. They may feel left out if no one tells them what is happening.

  • worried and afraid: They may worry about you and be afraid about what is happening to their sick brother or sister. Pueden pensar que todo está cambiando y nunca volverá a ser igual que antes. Sometimes they think that they may get sick too or worry that their parents may get sick.

  • guilty: Sometimes brothers and sisters think that they caused the illness because they did something mean or had mean thoughts. They may worry that it's their fault. They may also feel guilty because they are healthy and can do things their brother or sister can't do.

  • jealous and angry: Brothers or sisters sometimes feel jealous or angry because of all of the attention given to the sick child. They may act out their anger by not following rules or fighting with others. They may complain of feeling sick to get more attention.

  • confused: They may feel confused because they don't know what's happening now and what might follow and can't understand why it's happening.

Ways to help

  • Talk together as a family about what's happening with the sick child and why the child is sick. Give simple and honest explanations at your child's developmental level.

  • Tell brothers and sisters that it is important to ask questions and that you will try to answer them or find out the answers from the nurse or doctor.

  • Motive a los hermanos a que hablen sobre sus sentimientos. Let them know that it's okay to cry, be angry, be happy and have many different feelings.

  • Keep daily routines as normal as possible, such as school attendance, meals, naps and bedtimes.

  • Preste especial atención a sus otros hijos siempre que sea posible.

  • When possible, bring brothers and sisters to visit the hospital. Talk with staff about how to prepare your child for a visit to the hospital. Organice estas visitas según los intereses y el nivel de comodidad de su hijo. Si no es posible hacer visitas, organice llamadas telefónicas.

  • Sugiera que los hermanos hagan dibujos o tarjetas para enviar al hospital.

  • Busque el apoyo de la familia y amigos. Ask hospital staff about ways to find support for yourself and your family.