This week ASK is kicking off its first Summer Enrichment Camp specifically for siblings. This is just one way ASK is supporting siblings who have a brother or sister going through treatment. Dr. Jennifer Rohan, Director of Psychosocial Clinic Care & Research (an ASK-funded position) at the ASK Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic at CHOR on why it is important to support siblings:
When a family member is diagnosed with a chronic illness, the illness impacts the entire family, not just the patient. Siblings of patients often report increased psychological distress, including anxiety/worry, fears, stress, depression, sadness, irritability, and anger. Siblings often report decreased quality of life. Some siblings may also expressed increased guilt that they did something to cause their brother or sister to develop an illness. It is very important for siblings to be given education about what to expect, how things may change, and have many opportunities to ask questions along the way. It also is very important for the entire family to maintain increased structure and daily routines so that things can remain “as normal” as possible. It also is very important to prioritize 1:1 time with both the child/adolescent who is sick, but also with children/adolescents who are healthy.
Siblings should be given lots of opportunities to engage in activities by themselves so that they can maintain some level of normalcy (when possible). Patients, parents, and siblings will often report feeling like their lives have been turned upside down so opportunities to forget about clinic visits, hospital visits, and illness are very much needed and appreciated for everyone! Siblings often benefit from support groups or being able to talk with other siblings who are going through similar things. The ASK Sibling Camp will offer all of this and more!