My sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was 9 years old. In her two years of treatment I learned a lot about the hardships of having a sibling with cancer during the huge development stages of my life. I would like to share a few pointers on things to remember about kids with a sib in the hospital:
· Our lives matter too. A lot of times when you have a sibling in the hospital, all adults want to talk about is “How is your sister/brother doing?”. What you need to understand is that this child’s whole life revolves around their sibling at this point in time. That means that people aren’t asking too many “normal” questions about a sibling’s life. I loved it when adults cared to ask me about my interests and about what subjects I liked in school or how my sports were going rather than about my sister. I know that questions about a sibling come with great intentions, but it’s nice to know that people care about and are highlighting what is happening in the “normal” parts of my life.
· Let me be a kid!I had a lot of adults come up to me and ask me about how my sister was when I was in a group of friends or when I was clearly enjoying myself. I understood that they just wanted to check in and make sure that everything was okay but try to pick times to do so that don’t interfere with a sibling’s everyday life. I loved to chat with teachers before or after school (since I was normally at school before and after most kids!), but when my friends arrived, I wanted to hang out with them and enjoy the moments that weren’t centered around my sister being sick.
· Make sure everyone is informed!Since I was so young when my sister was sick, the kids in my class thought cancer was contagious and were afraid to be around me. One day my teacher asked if I wanted her to speak about what cancer was and actually let me talk to the class about what was going on with my sister. Not all kids are open to this, but I think it is important to ask if they would like to be a part of explaining what cancer is and why they shouldn’t be afraid of “catching” cancer.
· Don’t be afraid to ask questions.A lot of times I will mention my sister and people will get very awkward and will try to change the subject. If a child is open about talking about their sibling, use that as an opportunity to ask them questions about good memories and the happier things. I loved when people were open to asking about how close my sister and I am and the types of things we would do as kids. Most importantly, just try to act normal whenever a sibling brings up their sibling! Ask questions as you would to any other kid about their siblings.