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Helping Siblings Cope

When a child goes to the hospital, the whole family can be affected. Brothers and sisters (siblings) often have questions and may respond with a number of emotions to a child being in the hospital. It is important to be aware of these responses, understand that they are normal and help children work through them. Take time to explain to siblings what is going to happen, what they can do to help and how their routines may be affected.

Siblings May

  • worry about what is happening to their brother or sister
  • feel sad or alone because they miss their parents
  • be jealous that their brother or sister is getting lots of attention
  • feel angry or resent having their own routine disrupted

Here's What You Can Do to Help Siblings Cope

  • Be open and honest with every member of the family when answering questions; siblings may be imagining something far more frightening than what is actually happening
  • Use simple, straightforward language siblings can understand when explaining why their brother or sister is going to the hospital
  • Read books with the whole family about being in the hospital and having surgery - for a resource list, go to Surgery (PDF)
  • Ensure siblings know where they will be, who will be looking after them and when they will see you on the day of surgery
  • Arrange for siblings to visit or talk with their brother or sister over the phone
  • Help siblings feel included by involving them in plans for special homecoming activities or helping them make cards and pictures to send to the hospital
  • Spend some one on one time with each sibling
  • Try to keep routines at home as normal as possible