Brothers and Sisters

Upset Brother comforting his baby sister.

When a child with cancer is very ill, naturally a parent’s focus is on that child. As a parent, you may not be able to pay as much attention to your other children.

Ideas to help explain the cancer, the treatment and the care:

  • Try to involve your other children in their ill siblings treatment. Consider taking them along to see for themselves what the hospital and treatments are like.
  • Your children need to know that the cancer treatments, however unpleasant, are needed to help their brother/sister get well again.
  • Children need to know that no-one is to blame for the cancer. They have not caused the cancer by wishing bad things or by spreading germs.
  • Try to prepare your children by thinking of possible questions and answers other children may ask so they they will not be caught unaware.
  • Talk about the questions school friends have already asked and how your child answered them.
  • Discuss ways to help your child feel more comfortable talking about their siblings illness.
From the perspective of your other children, it’s understandable that they may be a little angered at the attention the child with cancer is receiving. (They may have their own secret feelings of guilt for ‘being mean’ to their sibling, not realising they were so unwell). You may miss many of their school and other special events. You’ll probably find you do not have enough energy to play with them, or help them with their homework.Talk to your children about the special attention their brother/sister is getting. Let them know that their feelings of resentment are understandable.Reassure them that as a family you will get through it although there will be lots of hard days, maybe parents not home or angry with each other.As difficult as it may be to find the time, try to have some special family times and make a point of doing things your other children wish to do.If as parents you can’t be at a special event, try to find another close relative or friend who can can, otherwise your children may believe you are ignoring their needs.Explain that their unwell sibling may behave differently, perhaps more aggressive.(Tell them it’s not the ill child’s fault, it’s the medicine (e.g. steriods, chemo).A woman getting manicure at a day spa. focus on hand, shalow dof.

As a result of the stress surrounding the family, siblings’ behaviour may change.

Your other children may mimic symptoms, noticing that the child with cancer receives immediate attention from their parents.

They may be terrified that their brother/sister is going to die but know that as parents you already have enough to worry about. Instead they may bottle up stress which can result in sleeping disorders, self induced vomiting, compulsive repetitive behaviour.

Talk with your child, remember specialist help, such as a child psychologist, is available to help resolve problems.

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