Leukaemia Foundation

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Caring for the 'Well' Sibling

When a child had been diagnosed with cancer the 'well' siblings (sisters and brothers) may experience many confusing emotions.

The way they respond to these emotions will depend on their age and development level. They may worry about the sick sibling, and feel sad about family separations. It is normal for well siblings to feel that they are missing out, especially in the early stages of treatment when the parents have to spend a great deal of time at the hospital with the sick child. They may feel resentment at having their lives disrupted, jealousy about the amount of attention given to the sick child and guilt about having these negative feelings in the first place.

Helpful suggestions

  • Reassure siblings that they are loved.
  • Giving the well sibling opportunities to talk about how they are feeling can help. It helps them to feel better about themselves if they know that such feelings are normal.
  • Talk about the disruptions and reassure the child that your family is not alone in this regard.
  • Ask other family members or friends to spend time with the sibling or take them on a special outing.
  • Giving the sibling suitable information about what is happening to the sick child may help to reduce their worry and help them to understand the reasons for the hospital visits and treatment.
  • Including the sibling in some hospital visits can be helpful.
  • Try not to expect too much of the well sibling during this stressful time. For example, some children will want to help out with extra household chores while others will not. It is important to remember that although there are many challenges for siblings of sick children, most adjust very well.