Childhood Cancer

Your Child in the Hospital

Siblings and school

Siblings can be overlooked while parents deal with a very ill or hurt child. Many siblings keep their feelings bottled up inside to prevent placing additional burdens on their parents. Often, their stress is most obvious at school. Some parents occasionally allow their healthy siblings to play hooky to be with the ill child in the hospital or to stay at home to rest.

Remember to include the siblings’ teachers in all conferences at school. They should be told about the stresses facing the family and understand that feelings may bubble to the surface in their classroom. Encourage school personnel to ask the siblings, “I know your brother is very sick, but how are you doing?”

Lindsey was in kindergarten when Jesse first got sick. Because we heard nothing from the kindergarten teacher, we assumed that things were going well. At the end of the year, the teacher told us that Lindsey frequently spent part of each day hiding under her desk. When I asked why we had never been told, the teacher said she thought that we already had enough to worry about dealing with Jesse’s illness and treatment. She was wrong to make decisions for us, but I wish we had been more attentive. Lindsey needed help.