Your child's illness or hospitalization impacts the entire family. How brothers and sisters respond to this situation can vary greatly with each child.
Your child's siblings may feel:
- Guilt that their sibling's sickness is somehow their fault. For example, "if I hadn't gotten into a fight with my brother, he wouldn't have gotten sick."
- Jealousy because the sick sibling is getting a lot of attention and/or gifts.
- Anger or acting out at schoolmates, at their sick sibling or others.
- Worry or fear that they may catch the illness or get sick.
- Loneliness or feeling left out of the hospital experience and the daily family routines.
- Sadness causing them to avoid some of their normal activities.
What you can do to help
- Explain why your hospitalized child is in the hospital in terms their sibling can understand. Clarify that they did not cause the illness or problem.
- Encourage your child to visit the hospital when possible. Talk with our child life specialists about how to prepare your child for the visit.
- Encourage your child to ask questions or concerns they may have.
- Give your child ways to express themselves, such as drawing pictures, writing in a journal or being physically active.
- Spend time with your child, even if it is a short time. For example, call them from the hospital and do their bedtime ritual over the phone, and attend their games or other events.
- Identify a trusted adult your child can talk to.
- Encourage your child to go to school and keep as normal a routine as possible.
While these are common reactions to a brother or sister's sickness, they may or may not occur with every sibling. How each sibling reacts depends on each child's social, emotional and cognitive development.
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