Brothers, Sisters and Others in the Family

Brothers and sisters may feel left out, frightened, confused, worried and upset. Their ages affect their understanding of what has happened. Many parents are unsure how to answer the questions, "Can I visit?", "What's the hospital like?", "How is she?", "What's wrong with him?"

It is important for brothers and sisters to visit, but only if they want to and they feel ready. You can judge when brothers and sisters are ready to visit by listening to their questions and preparing them for what to expect. Grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives may also be asking about your child's condition and planning to visit. They may need preparation as well.

Older brothers and sisters living away from home may feel cut off. Setting up a phone call schedule can keep them informed and involved. Help them make audiotapes to send to their injured brother or sister in the hospital. Audiotapes can be replayed many times to comfort your injured child. This can help if your child has difficulty remembering conversations.

Watch for Changes in Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and sisters can be forgotten in the crisis of a child's injury. They need help sorting through their feelings. Talk over how the injury happened to find out if they feel responsible in any way and if they blame themselves or others. Signs to watch for:

Any changes in children's normal patterns and behaviors are signals that they may need reassurance. Explain to them that it is not their fault. By encouraging brothers and sisters to talk about their feelings, they may become less anxious and settle back into familiar habits and routines. Alert the teachers at school of your child's injury so they can give extra attention and support to brothers and sisters.

Build a bridge

Home may feel strange because everything is so different now. By finding close friends and relatives who can come to your home, your other children have the reassurance of familiar places and people. Or they may choose to stay at familiar homes of relatives or close friends.

If hospital visits keep you away from home, try to set up a schedule to call. Your other children need to talk with you even if you are not there.

I always made sure to call my son at home every night before he went to bed. It was my way of keeping in touch and tucking him in when I couldn't be there.