For siblings of sick kids

We recognise that caring for a sick child or young person has an impact on the entire family and how difficult this can be.

We'd like parents and carers to feel supported in meeting the needs of all the children in their family and have put together this information, strategies and resources to help.

It's our belief that the most important thing that parents and carers can provide for siblings is as much honest information about the sick child as siblings can comprehend. Open communication helps reduce fear, anxiety and insecurities and creates opportunities for conversations about what will happen in the hospital and this provides siblings with a sense of control.

Hospital Social Workers or Child Life Therapists can support you with this communication in collaboration with your clinical team.

We know that COVID-19 has created additional challenges in relation to families being able to be together while in hospital; this article provides some strategies that might help.

Tips for supporting siblings

  • Prepare your chronically ill child or young person for coming to the hospital in the company of your other children – this way they will also know what is happening.
  • When you are away from your other children, try to set aside time to talk or text them to ensure they feel important and included. 
  • Let them ask questions and express their feelings—sometimes it's helpful to set aside scheduled time just for them or create a question box or a journal where they can write questions and you will respond.
  • Read stories to younger siblings about hospital visit and encourage playing 'hospitals' and 'medical play'.
  • While your child or young person is in hospital, set aside some time just for siblings so that they have special time with you. If this is not possible, schedule some special time with another trusted person in their life like an aunt or uncle, grandma or grandpa.
  • Where possible, ask family members or friends to come to important events like birthdays, school concerts or sports events to support siblings—especially if you are unable to be there.
  • Allow opportunities for siblings to interact with each other as often as possible, especially during a hospital stay.
  • Encourage siblings to send drawings and cards, or texts and messages to their brother or sister, talk on the phone and visit the hospital, when possible.
  • Consider explaining the situation to siblings’ teachers so that they are aware and can provide additional care while at school.

Sibling support research

In partnership with the University of NSW, the Kids Cancer Centre and Palliative Care teams have launched the SibStars project to better understand the needs of siblings. 

The Palliative Care team published the following papers: 

Books for siblings

External support agencies 

These external agencies can provide information on navigating through this challenging and often difficult time.