Caring for Siblings of Sick or Disabled Children

Aimee Sharp
Author | Shield HealthCare
02/13/18  12:43 PM PST

By Perri Klass, MD for The New York Times

Having a child changes you into a parent, and as we all know, that is not a simple change; there’s nothing one-and-done about it. And having a seriously ill child changes you forever as a family; it’s important for everyone who tries to help families to understand that when one child in a family is seriously ill, or lives with a chronic disability, the siblings are also profoundly shaped by the experience.

“It’s always a challenge to make sure that each child feels valued and loved equally,” said Barbara Mandleco, who is professor emerita of nursing at Brigham Young University and has studied the siblings of children with disabilities. Parents may be so focused on getting the disabled child the necessary attention and help, she said, that they may not stay as involved in the academic, music or sports activities of the sibling.

“Family life starts to revolve around the needs of the other child,” said Emily Incledon, a clinical psychologist at the Rehabilitation Service of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, who was the lead author on a 2013 review of mental health issues in siblings of children with chronic diseases.

And if that happens, she said, the not-sick sibling may either withdraw or may start acting out, competing to get parents’ attention back. “The parent needs to make time to explore the emotional experience of the sibling,” she said. Parents can open up that dialogue, and let a child see that it’s O.K. to have moments of feeling angry or resentful about how much attention the sick child is getting. And a first step in opening up that dialogue, she said, is normalizing some of those feelings: “I understand you must be angry this is affecting the family.”

Read the Full Article at The New York Times.


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