Preparing Children to Visit a Sibling

When you have a child in the hospital, his or her siblings are also affected. Here are some ways to help siblings cope with the hospitalization of a sibling.

young girl smiling and holding a teddy bear
  • Be honest with your child about why his or her sibling is in the hospital. Use simple, concrete language with them.
  • If their sibling has been diagnosed with an illness or disease, talk to your other children about what that illness or disease is. They may want to know if it’s contagious.
  • Check with staff to see if siblings can visit. We promote family-centered care and know that a big part of healing is having the entire family present.
  • Sometimes, children may feel left out because their parents are at the hospital for long periods of time. Try to set aside special one-on-one time with that child. This may help with the adjustment.
  • If the siblings are not able to visit, try to keep them connected by writing letters, drawing pictures, or video chat using FaceTime, Skype, etc.
  • If your child is able to visit, prepare them for what they will see, including the sights and sounds of the hospital setting.

Child Life Can Help

If you are concerned about how to discuss any of this with your child, Child Life Specialists at HSHS St. Vincent Children’s Hospital can help. They are trained to teach children and families the skills it takes to cope with a hospitalization. Child Life Specialists can help children and families prepare for the experience by using medical play, age-appropriate explanations and comfort measures. If you are interested in speaking or meeting with a Child Life Specialist, call 920-433-8641 or notify your child’s doctor.