Date published: 28 December 2018 by Anna Jackson
A child’s life changes dramatically when their brother or sister is diagnosed with a serious illness. Our new report, See Us, Hear Us, Notice Us sets out why there’s a need to support the siblings of seriously ill children.
Megan, a sister who has benefited from Rainbow Trust sibling support during and after her brother’s treatment for cancer, knows first-hand the impact serious illness can have on the whole family.
Her brother, Adam, was eight when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and he had to spend 9 months in hospital. The trauma of the treatment and surgery left him nervous and agitated around new people. Megan, his sister struggled. Her brother’s cancer meant family life had completely changed.
Megan said: “When Adam was in hospital it was really hard because all you want to do is go home and see your mum and your brother or go and ask them for help with homework and stuff like that, but you can’t because they are not there.”
An estimated 32,000 families in England have children with a sibling who is seriously ill. When a child is seriously ill, routines change to accommodate frequent appointments or treatment and a healthy child can struggle to understand what is happening.
Clare, Adam and Megan’s mum said:
“I really noticed that Megan was becoming more withdrawn from me, more distant and I felt at one point that I’d lost my little girl.”
Feelings of worry, sadness, isolation and jealousy are common. But many children hide their feelings and try to protect their parents at such a difficult time.
Megan said: “There are times where I didn’t want to worry my mum with anything, with like my worries or something, because Adam might have gone back in to hospital that day or had an operation or might have been really ill the day before, so you just don’t want to worry her a lot of the time.”
Luckily, Megan was introduced to a Rainbow Trust Family Support Worker, who helped her cope better.
Megan said: “My Family Support Worker helped me because she would talk to be about my worries, and they know exactly what you’re going through, and you can explain everything to them.”
But there are still so many children who are missing out due to an increase in demand and declining funding.
Rainbow Trust is calling for all children and young people with seriously ill brothers or sisters to have access to high quality sibling support when required, before their education, mental health and wellbeing is more seriously affected.
Help us make this happen. Read our full report and add your name to our open letter to Government here.