The siblings of a child or young adult with cancer or a blood disorder can sometimes feel like lost pieces in the treatment puzzle. There are things you can keep in mind, however, to help them adjust and work through what is happening.

Ways to help siblings cope:

  • Explain to siblings that they did not make brother or sister sibling sick and cannot "catch" cancer from their sick sibling.
  • Let them know how their brother or sister's treatment will affect the family in terms of time spent apart for office visits or hospitalizations
  • Describe for them in developmentally appropriate ways what to expect of their sibling's hair loss, decreased energy and extra precautions needed against infections.
  • Expect some regression or acting out, as it is a natural response in times when attention is focused on the child with cancer or a blood disorder.
  • Try to set aside time to discuss the events of each day.
  • Be sure to acknowledge significant days in each sibling's life, whether birthdays, special achievements, graduations, first dates, etc.
  • Spend time in bed reading or talking to your healthy children. This time spent together can create opportunities for coping and bonding.
  • Allow each of your children to experience their own lives individually, and don't expect the illness of one child to alter the development of your other children. For instance, if your son is turning 16 and ready to drive, spend the time and energy necessary to teach that skill.
  • Help reinforce with your children that each is special and deserving of your time, attention and love.

Contributing source: Kara Hellum, Child Life Specialist, Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center