When there is a childhood cancer diagnosis in the family, it is normal for each family member to react in different ways. For a brother or a sister, this can be an especially stressful time. Attention is commonly focused on the child with the cancer, with family routines changing resulting in increasing confusion around what is happening and how it relates to everyone in the family.
Often the healthy sibling(s) will mourn the loss of their relationship with their brother and sister, who is sick and whose life is now consumed with appointments, tests and treatments. Other reactions may include:
- Fear and anxiety about their sibling’s cancer.
- Anger and resentment at getting less attention from family.
- Stress at what is expected from them and their responsibilities.
- Difficulty coping with these changes.
- Behavioural changes.
As a parent or caregiver, it can be difficult to juggle the ongoing challenges of care for your child with cancer while still providing quality attention to their siblings. The most important thing you can do is be honest and transparent with your children every step of the way, while taking into consideration their age and stages of development.