Siblings of sick kids

When a child is sick or has surgery, their brothers and sisters may also feel worried or confused. 

They may hear or see things that they do not understand and cope with being away from one or both parents. 

Here are some ways that you can support siblings before and during hospital admission. 

Be sure to ask the care team about our playgrounds, Starlight express rooms and sibling care. 

Include siblings in conversations and reassure them

  • Include siblings in conversations about their brother or sister’s surgery.
  • Use simple explanations that they will understand.
  • It can be common for siblings to think that their thoughts or actions caused their brother or sister to become unwell, or worry that they will become sick themselves.
  • Reassure them that it is not their fault and that they can’t ‘catch’ a heart condition.

Ways to ensure they do not feel left out

  • Siblings may worry about being left alone or their needs not being met. 
  • Let them know who will be caring for them while you are at the hospital and when you'll be back. 
  • Leave a special item that they associate with you to provide comfort.
  • Try to keep routines such as naps, meals and bedtimes as close to normal as possible.
  • If they attend school or childcare, let their teacher know what is happening so that they can provide support and watch for any changes in mood or behaviour.
  • Siblings may feel jealous of all the attention their brother or sister is getting.
  • Try to set aside some one-on-one time for them if possible so that they don’t feel left out.

Visiting and playing with their sibling in hospital

  • Siblings may miss their brother or sister. Encourage them to make something for their sibling like a drawing or card.
  • Provide them with the choice of visiting and if they choose to, explain what to expect (for example what they will see or hear).
  • Provide opportunities to play away from the bedside to help siblings cope with spending time at the hospital.
  • Ask the hospital about playgrounds, the Starlight room and sibling care.  


Last updated Tuesday 14th May 2024