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How to Help Kids Cope With Their Sibling Hospital Stays

How to Help Kids Cope With Their Sibling’s Hospital Stays
Long hospital stays are one of the worst parts of recovering from a serious illness. And not just for kids fighting an illness – it takes a toll on their siblings and parents, too. The siblings feel left out and isolated, and parents often feel guilty for the time they miss with them.

How to Help Kids Cope With Their Sibling’s Hospital StaysWe wondered how families keep siblings’ spirits up during hospital stays, so we turned to the experts: you, the people who have faced this challenge. Let’s have a look at some of the advice you shared on our Facebook page, starting with some very specific points:

“People often forget how difficult it is for siblings of chronically/terminally ill children. We live 3 hours away from our son’s hospital. When he is in-patient it means we may be separated for weeks at a time! His siblings don't always get to come visit and they have to be without mom or dad during that time. I would encourage those who are close to families in these situations to try to reach out to the siblings – offer to take them to a movie or to get pizza, offer to stop by after school to help with homework or drive someone to practice so they don't have to miss, bring them a treat for being such great brothers/sisters. We as parents are sometimes so focused on the sick child and we need someone to give that extra attention to the siblings!” ­–Angela

“Spend a few hours or even 1/2 day with sibling(s) outside the hospital doing what they want to do. If more than one sib, do it one-on-one. I think they get and feel left out and isolated.” –Michelle

“Our girls did ALLOT of online gaming together. They thought it was hilarious and made our ill child feel less isolated, as well as giving our older, well child a chance to contribute toward the ill child’s care in a big and thoughtful way that only she could.” –Jennifer

“Find someone you trust and love to spend the night at home with them.” –Jennifer A.

There were a few other recurring themes we noticed:

  • Mobile devices and Internet time help, especially because apps like Facetime can keep separated siblings talking regularly.
  • Make sure one parents is always home with the siblings.
  • Have siblings visit on the weekends.
  • Make a special backpack for the siblings and fill it with gifts to keep them busy during hospital visits.  
  • Some hospitals have siblings play rooms. If yours has one, be sure to use it!
  • Trade off with the other parent. That way, the ill child and the siblings get to spend time with both parents.
  • Organize hospital sleepovers when you can – probably not during cold and flu season, though.

Have we missed any of your most-successful tips? Feel free to add them in the comments?

Be sure to read our post about advice to parents of newly diagnosed children for more helpful thoughts.

Photo by Trevor Stolebarger

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