It’s well known that medical conditions can severely impact quality of life. But they can also affect the lives of patients’ family members, especially their siblings. It is estimated that 27 percent of children in the United States have a chronic condition. And while experts say siblings of these children have a better chance of becoming kind, patient, and accepting, they can also become angry, anxious, and resentful. So what can parents do to make sure they are not neglecting, or creating unfair expectations for their other children?
Let kids be kids. Although caring for a child with a chronic condition can be challenging, try not to burden your other children with too much responsibility. And while it’s nice to have someone to talk to, your young child is probably not the best person to hear out your concerns; this can stress them out and even lead to long-term resentment toward you or their sibling. If possible, recruit your other children to help with small tasks; but don’t give them chores that aren’t age- appropriate.
Communicate. Whether your family is grappling with a heart condition or frequent hospital stays, these kinds of health issues can lead even the most mature, well-adjusted kid to experience fear, anxiety, or a host of other emotions. To help them work through their feelings, parents should explain in age-appropriate language what’s going on. Doing so will calm their fears kids tend to imagine the worst when they’re left to guess and can also help parents keep an eye out for warning signs of anxiety and depression.
Make quality time for all. When one child gets the bulk of your attention, it’s understandable that their brothers and sisters may become resentful. To combat this, experts say spending quality one-on-one time with each member of the family is critical even as little as 10 minutes before bed can have a positive effect. If your child has a severe medical condition, ask a specialist to recommend inclusion camps during the summer, so both your affected child and the rest of the family can catch a break. Finally, make time to find fun activities to do as a family, that everyone can bond and create positive family memories together. Whatever activities you choose, remember that it’s the quality of time spent together, not the quantity, that counts.