Bringing a healthy child to visit a very ill sibling in the hospital can help the whole family. But, before you take your child to visit their ill sibling, prepare your child for the visit so they know what to expect.
How to Prepare Your Child
There are several things you can do to prepare your child:
- Ask if the child wants to visit. It is OK if the child changes 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 the ill sibling in their hospital room.
- Talk with your child about what they will see. This may include tubes, machines that monitor vital signs, and other medical equipment.
- Bring your child to a sibling support group, if there is one available.
- 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. The child 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 visiting their ill sibling. 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.
Clark JD. Building partnerships: Patient- and family-centered care in the pediatric intensive care unit. In: Fuhrman BP, Zimmerman JJ, eds. Pediatric Critical Care. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 13.
Davidson JE, Aslarkson RA, Long AC, et al. Guidelines for family-centered care in the neonatal, pediatric, and adult ICU. Crit Care Med. 2017;45(1):103-128. PMID: 27984278 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27984278.
Kleiber C, Montgomery LA, Craft-Rosenberg M. Information needs of the siblings of critically ill children. Child Health Care. 1995;24(1):47-60. PMID: 10142085 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10142085.
Review Date 5/20/2018
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.