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  • Helping Siblings of Children with Disabilities

  • The SibLink Program at Hasbro Children's Hospital recommends the following steps parents and caregivers can take to help a brother or sister adjust to a sibling's chronic illness or disability.

    1. Be open and honest in discussing the child's diagnosis and its emotional impact on all family members.
    2. Admit and express positive and negative aspects of your own experience.
    3. Recognize that your adaptation and coping strongly influence siblings.
    4. Periodically discuss with siblings their understanding and experience. Expect their understanding and perspective to change with time and experience.
    5. Use terminology that siblings may encounter in professional and nonprofessional settings.
    6. Listen to siblings' suggestions about family needs.
    7. Involve siblings in decisions and care as they mature and express interest.
    8. Provide opportunities for sibling contact during hospitalizations.
    9. When possible, discuss potential difficult times in advance and practice/rehearse potential reactions and solutions (e.g., prolonged absences, peer teasing, disfigurement).
    10. Read children's literature about disease and disability issues.
    11. Limit and appreciate caregiving and household responsibilities.
    12. Use respite and other supportive professional services.
    13. Schedule special time with the sibling on a regular basis.
    14. Provide discipline, attention, and resources to each child according to need. Do not be held hostage by requests for "equal" treatment.
    15. Let siblings settle their own differences.
    16. Encourage siblings to talk with each other about their experiences with the illness or disability.
    17. Parents should recognize and value the uniqueness of their family. Do not compare your family to others.
    18. Do not compare siblings to each other.
    19. Require the patient to do as much for him or herself as possible. Avoid overprotection of the patient.
    20. Encourage the development of special sibling programs.
    21. Help establish a sibling support group and/or attend support groups in your area.
    22. Recognize each child's positive unique qualities and family contributions.
    23. Do not expect the sibling to be a saint.

    To learn more about any of the support services available for siblings, please call Debra Lobato, PhD, department of child and family psychiatry at 401-444-8945. All questions and concerns are welcome.

    More about SibLink