Are you worried because your other children:

  • Are upset or worried?
  • Are missing out on getting your attention like they usually do?
  • Are having problems with friends, school, or family that are out of the ordinary?

Injury or illness can affect the whole family. When a child experiences injury or illness, siblings may be sad, worried, frightened, or even angry. 

It’s hard for parents to meet everyone’s needs at the same time.

Siblings will need time to adjust to their brother/sister’s medical needs and treatment. Most siblings react in very positive ways and often describe feeling glad they’re able to help. But some will also have trouble adjusting. They will miss you and may not understand what happened to their brother/sister. They might want to help out, but not know what to do. They might also feel angry, jealous or even guilty and aren’t sure if that’s okay.

What can you do to help siblings cope?

  • Remember that siblings and other children may also feel afraid, worried or jealous.

Notice when siblings are feeling sad, worried or lost in their thoughts - or when they seem angry or irritated - and ask what’s on their mind. Siblings’ needs are sometimes overlooked when one child is ill. Remember that changes in behavior can come from worries or upset feelings. Set aside time to talk with your other children about what is happening, what to expect, and what they are feeling. Let them ask a lot of questions.

  • Get support from family and friends.

There may be times when you have to focus on one child’s needs. Enlist the help of family, friends, and possibly the school to provide your other children with some special attention. Encourage siblings to have fun. Often times, siblings feel guilt about wanting to have fun while their brother or sister is not feeling well. Remind them its okay for them to spend time with friends, doing activities or hobbies they enjoy.

  • Check with hospital staff about sibling support programs.

If your injured or ill child is still in the hospital, ask hospital staff about programs for siblings. Hospitals may offer sibling support through their social work, child life, or chaplain services.

  • Answer their questions honestly and help them feel involved

If your other children have questions about their illness, injury, or what is happening, try to answer simply and honestly. Help siblings feel involved by allowing them to be a part of the sibling’s care. Plan a visit to the hospital and introduce them to the healthcare team. Let them choose what toys and games to take to the hospital. And make sure you let them know how much you appreciate the extra things they do to help out. Listen to one mom talk about transitioning from sibling rivalry to healing relationships:

Helpful Resources:

Does my child need talk to someone? / Do I need to talk to someone?