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Sibling Tool Kit

Whether your children are best friends or the worst of enemies, siblings suffer immense stress when their brother or sister is diagnose with cancer.

Following a brain tumour diagnosis a sibling’s world is rocked. What was once a happy home and a safe place has now changed and become vulnerable.  The dynamics may change too, with parents not working as much or not being home like they used to be.

Siblings feel an array of Emotions

Sadness at sibling being in hospital

A child will be sad that their sibling is in hospital, not just because of them being poorly but because they're not around and that creates a feeling of fear and anxiety

Fear of Treatment

Siblings are naturally curious and need to understand what treatment their brother of sister is going to have. They also need to be reassured that nothing has caused the cancer


Part of a siblings fear is one of loneliness and isolation. Their brother or sister is not around to play with. Reassure them that when the treatment is finished that they will be back. Invite over friends or family

Jealous of Attention

Most siblings are quite competetive especailly for the love and attention of their parents. Being jealous is understandable and making time for a sibling can improve things

Fear of Sibling Dying

Brain Tumours and cancers are words that you child might associate with death, so understandably they will be frightened of their sibling dying.
Honest and open conversations can put their mind at rest


'Why them and not me?' is a feeling that many siblings have, especially if the child with cancer is younger. It's important that they know that it's not their fault and they're not to blame

Addressing these emotions early is crucial. Just saying you understand and that you love them might not be enough.  To a sibling their world has been turned upside down.  Understandably they want their world back to how its was. 

Try to have honest and straight forward conversations about what’s happening to their sibling. As hard as it will be, trying to give some form of continuity to family life is a good idea. Arrange activities that keeps the sibling involved. Eat healthy home cooked meals – nothing says change like a poor or inadequate diet.

Be aware of behavioural triggers. Having a child fighting cancer is bound to be emotional and stressful and as a family it is okay to show these emotions as long as you all try to understand them.

Try to keep your sibling off the internet looking for a cure. Many children want to try a fix the problem and whilst it’s great that they want to be involved this can cause more stress in the long run.

Involve other family members to help and give support.

Encourage friends to visit.

Encourage honest conversations.

Join a support group like one of those featured on our Support groups page.

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

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). 

As a parent 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 aggressively. (Tell them it’s not the sick child’s fault, it’s the medicine (e.g. steriods, chemo)

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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Help Joss Searchlight find a cure for some of the rarest brain tumours and give suppport to families

Even though cancer affects 1 in 500 children every year in the U.K, things are getting a whole lot better for children with cancer

Fifty Years ago, sadly 60% of children with a cancer diagnosis didn’t make it.  Now the prognosis for most children is looking much better with 80% of children recovering from most cancers. 

We need to get the cure rate up for Brain Tumours – NOW

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