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Bringing your child to visit a very ill sibling

What to Expect

Bringing a healthy child to visit a very ill sibling in the hospital can help the whole family. But, before you take you child to visit their ill sibling, you need to prepare them for the visit so that they know what to expect.

How to Prepare Your Child

There are several things you can do to prepare your child:

  • Ask the child if they want to visit. It is okay for them to change their mind.
  • Talk with your child about their ill sibling. The social worker, doctor, or nurse can help you choose words to explain the illness the sibling has.
  • Show your child a picture of their ill sibling in their hospital room.
  • Talk with your child about what they will see. They may see tubes, machines that monitor vital signs, and other medical equipment.
  • Bring your child to a sibling support group.
  • Have your child draw a picture or leave a gift for their ill sibling.

Your child will have questions about why their sibling is sick. They will probably ask if their sibling will get better. You can be ready by having a social worker, nurse, or doctor there before, during, and after the visit.

Your child may feel angry, scared, helpless, guilty, or jealous. These are normal feelings.

Often children do better than adults when they visit their ill sibling. Your child will not increase the risk of their sibling getting sicker. But be sure your child does not have a cold, cough, or any other illness or infection when they visit.

Make sure to follow hand-washing rules and other hospital safety rules.

References

Davidson JE, Powers K, Hedayat KM, et al. Clinical practice guidelines for support of the family in the patient-centered intensive care unit: American College of Critical Care Medicine Task Force 2004-2005. Crit Care Clin. 2007 Feb;35(2):605-22.

Kleiber C, Montgomery LA, Craft-Rosenberg M. Information needs of the siblings of critically ill children. Children’s Health Care. 1995 Jan;24(1):47-60.

Ridling DA, Hofmann KT, Deshler J. Family-centered care in the pediatric intensive care unit. In: Fuhrman BP and Zimmerman JJ, eds. Pediatric Critical Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2005:chap 10.


Review Date: 4/26/2010
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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