Ideas for Including Siblings - Child Life Program
Siblings are encouraged to stay involved with the care of their hospitalized brother or sister by participating in activities at home or when visiting the hospital. For your child's health and well-being and the health of the other children in the hospital, check with your child's medical team about sibling visitation in that area.
When at home, siblings can...
- Draw pictures to decorate their brother or sisters hospital room
- Record themselves reading a book so their brother or sister can hear a favorite story read by a familiar voice (singing, general talking, music, & storytelling are good ideas too)
- Pick favorite or funny photos of family, friends and pets for their brother or sister to hang in their hospital room and share with hospital staff and friends
- Pack a 'goodie' bag of their brother or sister's favorite toys, books, stuffed animals, blankets, and pajamas (including a special picture or note can be a wonderful surprise)
- Write a note in a journal and send to the hospital so their brother or sister can write a note back to them
- Pick their brother or sister's favorite videos and music to send to the hospital
- Make a sign with information about their brother or sister that can be hung at the child's bedside - include information such as their brother or sisters favorite toys, books, colors, tv shows, songs, foods, dislikes, pets, and special words (like "lovee" for blanket) their brother or sister uses to identify certain items
- Have friends from school make a "Get well" or "We miss you" poster to send to the hospital
- If the child in the hospital is able to take phone calls, arrange for a special phone call between siblings
When siblings visit the hospital...
- Siblings should be allowed to visit whenever possible
- Prepare siblings for what they will see and hear during their visit. Describe what their brother or sister will look like or how they may act if different than normal. Child life specialists are available to help you with this preparation.
- If their brother or sister is very ill, injured, and/or not feeling well, suggest siblings pack a bag of things to do quietly while they are at the hospital. We have a Ronald McDonald Room with toys and games where siblings can play, but sometimes those favorite things from home are most comforting.
- If their brother or sister is feeling up to playing, siblings can play games or work on art projects together
- If a quiet time activity is more appropriate, siblings can read a book, watch a movie or talk about their day with their brother or sister.
Children's books that may be helpful to read with siblings include:
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst, 1972, Aladdin Paperbacks, New York. Non-hospital related, but helps children deal with their feelings.
- Becky's Story, Donna Baznik, 1981, Association for the Care of Children's Health. Discusses feelings of siblings after a child was hospitalized suddenly.
- Going to the Hospital, Fred Rogers, 1988, Family Communications, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA. Describes what happens during a stay in the hospital.
- Katie's Premature Brother, Elizabeth Hawkins-Walsh, 1985, Centering Corporation, Omaha, NE. Provides basic information about a baby's neonatal intensive care unit stay and addresses the siblings feelings.
- What About Me? When Brothers and Sisters Get Sick, Allan Peterkin, 1992, Magination Press, Washington, DC. To help siblings deal with their feelings and the experience of having a brother or sister in the hospital.
- When Molly Was in the Hospital, Debbie Duncan, 1994, Rayve Productions, Inc., Windsor, CA. Story from an older sisters perspective when her baby sister is hospitalized.
Children's videos that may be helpful:
- A New Baby in My House, Sesame Street Video, Children's Television Workshop, 1994. Helpful for brothers and sisters with a new baby expected.