Q. My 6-year-old son is getting treatment for leukemia. He is getting so much attention right now that his older brother is feeling left out. What can I do?

A.

When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it’s a frightening time for the whole family. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for siblings to feel like their needs are being neglected. They may feel jealous, angry, frightened, or have other strong emotions.

Here are some tips for helping siblings manage:

  • Make time to talk to individual siblings. Ask them how they are doing, and take time to really listen to them.
  • Invite siblings to join you in fun activities. Siblings need to laugh, have fun, and be themselves, especially during this difficult time.
  • Send emails or cards to siblings to let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Encourage siblings to choose a special support person. Then, help them connect with that person. Keep in mind that they may want you to be that person.

The key is not to expect that siblings will just “get over” these feelings with time. In order to maintain their strength, courage and hope, they need your love and support more than ever.

These books may be a useful when helping children who have a sibling with cancer:

  • Life Isn’t Always A Day At The Beach, by Pam Ganz
  • What is Cancer, Anyway? Explaining Cancer to Children of All Ages, by Karen Carney
  • Chemo Crusader and the Cancer Fighting Crew, by Melodie Homer

You can also visit SuperSibs!, an organization providing support to siblings of children with cancer.