Date published: 10 April 2017 by Anna Jackson
Callie from our Greater Manchester Care Team shares what it means to be a Sibling Support Worker at Rainbow Trust
My role within Rainbow Trust could be described as quite niche. and it is certainly varied. As a Sibling Support Worker, I can find myself working in families’ homes, in schools, hospitals, cafes, our team office, and even in my car. I offer emotional and practical support to the siblings in various forms; this could be through 1:1 visits, closed groups and sibling activities.
“siblings have many thoughts and concerns in their heads but feel that they are unable to voice these for fear of upsetting their parents or saying the wrong thing.”
The 1:1 support could be collecting children from school, offering therapeutic play visits, the opportunity for young people to go for a hot chocolate and have someone to talk to, or a series of planned interventions. In these sessions, the siblings have a safe space to discuss their thoughts and feelings about their brother or sister. Often, at times when a child is ill, the families’ priorities shift and the sibling can end up being overlooked for long periods of time. Sometimes, siblings have many thoughts and concerns in their heads but feel that they are unable to voice these for fear of upsetting their parents or saying the wrong thing. Allowing the siblings to simply tell you “their story” has a therapeutic element, especially as often the siblings feel it isn’t their story to tell.
“The children within our Rochdale group have formed a lovely bond and speak freely and openly about their siblings.”
Our closed sibling group meets fortnightly after school and offers children the opportunity to have fun, whilst meeting others who are in similar situations. We often complete arts and craft activities and have group discussions, followed by games or relaxation techniques. The children within our Rochdale group have formed a lovely bond and speak freely and openly about their siblings. During one particular session, all of the children who attend the sibling groups were in hospital, which opened up a great discussion and activity about hospitals and how they make us feel. This then led nicely onto a session about making our own “well-being first aid kits” where children were encouraged to think about what they can do and who they can speak to when they are struggling with situations.
“These activities and the children build some fantastic friendships through these days”
Our school holiday sibling activity days are hugely popular with the children and families. In some cases these are the only opportunity siblings might have to go out in the holidays due to the logistics of taking a sick child out. The relief this gives the parents to know that we will offer varying activities throughout the holidays, across Greater Manchester is a fantastic way of supporting these families. We try to ensure there are many different opportunities for the children, including soft play, rock climbing, and cinema trips to name a few. In the last six months, we have had over 40 different siblings attend.
“Siblings experience a loss of their normal”
Many of the siblings I encounter report that they feel isolated or lonely and are often torn between wanting to talk about their sibling with their friends whilst also feeling like their friends wouldn’t understand their situation. Their lives have been completely turned upside down by their siblings’ illnesses. Often they have had to stay with friends or family members for long periods of time whilst their sibling is in hospital, so have experienced multiple losses; most of all a loss of their ‘normal’.
Supporting siblings is a real passion of mine and the best bit by far, is building relationships with some of the most inspiring and resilient children and young people that I have ever encountered.