Common Sibling Reactions to Hospitalization
When a child goes to the hospital, brothers and sisters can feel afraid, worried or confused. They are being faced with a new situation. They may hear and see things that they do not understand, may have a change within their daily routines or may be separated from their parents, brother or sister.
Each child has his or her own concerns when a brother or sister is in the hospital. Here you'll find information to help you understand the reactions children may have and some ways to help them cope during this time.
Siblings may be feeling:
- Confusion- siblings may not understand what is happening and why. This is very common, especially when the hospitalization is sudden.
- Guilt- siblings may have been in an argument with their brother or sister and think that they caused the hospitalization. They may also feel guilty because they are not sick, but their sibling is.
- Fear- siblings may fear that they might "catch" what their brother or sister has, especially if they are unsure of the reason for the hospitalization. They may also be afraid their sibling may not get well and come home.
- Anger- siblings may be angry at their brother or sister for getting sick. They may be angry that their parents did not prevent their brother or sister from becoming ill.
- Jealousy- siblings can feel jealous of all the attention the patient is receiving. The patient may receive gifts and relatives may travel to visit them. Siblings who do not know what is happening at the hospital often think that their brother or sister is there having nothing but fun.
- Rejection- siblings may feel left out. If they are unsure about what is happening at the hospital, they feel that they are not included and not important. The sibling may also worry that the parent cares about the patient more because the parent may need to spend a great deal of time with the patient.
Siblings may express these feelings by:
- Changing their eating and sleeping habits
- Acting out
- Clinging to parents
- Becoming withdrawn from family and/or friends
- Regressing to habits of an earlier age (such as bed wetting, thumb sucking)
- Saying they feel sick
- Playing aggressively with toys