When children are diagnosed with a serious illness, parents and guardians, in addition to organizations like New Hope for Kids, do everything within their power to assist the child to try to make their struggle just a little less painful. Coping with a serious illness can bring on both challenges within a family, as well as opportunities. One area that often gets overlooked is the need for sibling support. This need can be looked at from two very different, yet both equally important, viewpoints. First, siblings provide valuable, much needed support and reassurance to the child with the illness in many important ways. Second, the need for an outlet for siblings to voice their concerns and build stronger relationships with both family and friends is beneficial to them, as it can provide higher self-esteem and assist them in achieving their goals.
Brothers and sisters are often our first friends. They are the individuals that know us best, the ones that joke with us, and give us a hard time in a loving way. They are also the people that will stand up for us when things get difficult. When struggling with an illness that most people do not fully understand, there are times when other individuals we encounter in daily life, may say or do the wrong things. This is often done without intention of causing hurt, however, it frequently does. Siblings of children that have illnesses oftentimes stand up for the ill child and do the best they can to stop these occurrences from happening again. It is important that siblings remain loyal to their struggling brother or sister. Children that are ill thrive on that connection and depend on their trusted sibling friend with whom they have such a powerful relationship.
Siblings of children who are very ill learn valuable lessons in their lives that others may not have the opportunity to learn until much later, or may never encounter. They tend to demonstrate care and compassion. They have a greater understanding of open communication and what it takes for people to feel comfortable in their own skin. Obviously, different age levels respond to different types of illnesses in their own ways. Some learn an incredible amount of patience. Keeping this in mind, siblings also need a positive outlet for support. They too face these different challenges and opportunities that may not always be understood. Brothers and sisters can look for support through programs like New Hope for Kids. It helps to come to the Grief Center and to family activities that we offer. If siblings find that they are sad or afraid and need someone to talk to, they too can benefit from a grief counselor. Discussing their feelings or getting them involved in group activities gives them an opportunity to gain one-on-one time and meet friends that may share similar stories. Doctors can also recommend internet resources and support groups to open up even more possibilities and give siblings a greater understanding of what is going on. Families that work together towards a common goal tend to form close relationships. As greater understanding and knowledge is gained for each specific circumstance, siblings find support worthwhile as they gain important life skills and the respect and admiration of the brother or sister that may be encountering a difficult time. As we like to say, it may be overwhelming, but there is always hope.
“University of Michigan Health System.” Siblings of Kids with Special Needs: Your Child:. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
“Siblings and Cancer.” Cancer.Net. N.p., 24 July 2012. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
“Sibling Issues | Center for Parent Information and Resources.” Center for Parent Information and Resources. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.
Links to Sibling Support Available in the tri-county area:
Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida
Autism Sibling Support Groups Orlando FL
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Florida
Florida Department of Children and Families