Advice for siblings
When your brother or sister is ill or has a disability, life can be hard and you can feel lots of different emotions. Here's some advice to help you cope.
If you are feeling sad, upset or angry it is often best to talk to your
parents about it so you can work out a way of dealing with it together.
But sometimes you might not want to talk to your
parents about it. You might be worried you'll upset them or make the
Try not to bottle up your feelings if this happens –
talk things over with a close friend. It is good to talk things over
with someone who understands what you're going through.
When you don't know what's going onParents
often think they're 'protecting' their child by not telling them things
that could upset them. This can hurt because it leaves you feeling left
You might even start imagining what could be happening – which is nearly always worse that what's really happening.
If you feel like this, talk it over with your parents. Ask them to explain what is happening.
Tell them you'd rather know the truth as you're
imagining all sorts of things. Sometimes telling them what you're
imagining can help, if only to make them want to put the facts straight.
If you'd prefer, you could ask to speak to one of
the doctors or nurses. If they try to fob you off, ask another doctor or
When other people don't understandBullies
will always pick on something that makes you different. For some
children it could be being clever or wearing glasses, but for others it
is because their brother or sister is ill or has a disability.
Remember, bullies are usually covering up for
something they're embarrassed about. They might even be bullied
themselves. But, whatever the reason, bullying someone is not OK.
If you're being bullied for whatever reason, tell
someone about it. This could be your parents, your teacher or another
adult you trust. No one should have to put up with being bullied.
Some people don't know how to behave around people
who are ill or have disabilities. They often feel embarrassed and might
cover it up by calling your brother or sister nasty names or taking the
Mickey out of the way they look or behave. Remember that bad behaviour
is often down to ignorance.
If someone's using a nasty name or taking the
Mickey, talk to them if you feel you can. Explain that your brother or
sister is ill or has a disability but that they are still a special
Sometimes you might feel embarrassed by your brother
or sister – that's OK! It's not usually your brother or sister you're
embarrassed about, it's other people's reactions. They might stare, or
make rude comments or even laugh.
If this happens to you, try not to feel embarrassed, even though that can be hard.
If you feel you can, talk to the person staring,
making comments or laughing, or ask your mum or dad to if they're there.
If you don't want to talk to them, just walk away – they'll soon get
When you seem to be invisibleYou
might feel like your parents only ever seem to focus on your brother or
sister who's ill or has a disability. This doesn't mean you don't count
or that they don't love you – although it can feel like it sometimes!
Your parents probably focus on your brother or
sister because they need more help or attention to do things that you
can manage for yourself.
If you feel like your parents are forgetting you
exist, talk to them about it. Wait for a time when it's quiet and you're
not going to be disturbed – you're more likely to get their attention.
Explain calmly that you'd like to spend some time
with them on your own. Try not to get angry or blame your brother or
sister, this is more likely to stop them listening.
Different rulesYour brother or
sister may seem to be able to get away with doing things you'd be told
off for. This is really difficult to deal with and you're bound to feel
It can be really difficult for your parents to be as
strict with your brother or sister as they are with you. If you get
told off for something that seems unfair, tell your parents. They
probably won't appreciate it at the time, but they'll think a lot about
If your parents focus a lot on your brother or
sister, it's understandable that you sometimes feel jealous and they
probably don't realise they're doing it.
If you're feeling jealous, try not to focus your
jealousy on your brother or sister. Sit down with your parents and talk
it through with them.
Other people's reactionsSometimes
it's not your parents that are the problem. Some people might feel sorry
for your brother or sister and think that by making a fuss of them
they'll make things better. This can make you feel seriously left out.
Ask your parents to explain to the person that they
want all their children treated equally. Just because your brother or
sister is ill or has a disability, doesn't mean they should be spoilt.
Your parents could suggest that if the person buys a
present for your brother or sister, they should buy one for all of you
or they shouldn't buy one at all.
When you never get any time to yourselfAs
you get older, it's natural to want more time to yourself. This is
particularly true when you're a teenager. You might not want to sit
watching TV with your family all evening, maybe you'd prefer talking to
your friends online.
It can be difficult to get some time to yourself, especially if you're sharing a room with your brother or sister.
Needing spaceIf you've got homework to do, ask if you can borrow the dining room for an hour so you can work without interruptions.
If you want to talk to your friends on the phone in
private or curl up with a book, ask if you can stay in your room until
your brother or sister comes to bed, or use another room that's empty.
If there's no room at home, maybe you could do your homework in your local library or round a friend's house.
You might find that even if you do find a quiet
corner to relax on your own, your brother or sister keeps interrupting
you. If this keeps happening, you could end up feeling really annoyed.
Talk to your brother or sister and your parents, and
explain that, while you enjoy your brother or sister's company, you
need some time to yourself.
Ask if your parents can keep your brother or sister
out of the way at these times, or even ask if you can have a lock or a
sign put on your door.
When you feel scared or everything gets too muchThere
are going to be times when you can't cope anymore, and just want to
scream and shout or cry for an hour; that's normal, everyone feels like
that at times.
The future can be uncertain for all of us, but
particularly if your brother or sister is ill or has a disability. You
might be worried about your brother or sister going in to hospital. You
might be worried about what will happen in the future.
If you do feel yourself getting angry, go somewhere
to cool off. You might say something you don't mean in the heat of the
When you've cooled off a bit, talk calmly and
quietly to someone about how you feel. This could be your parents, or
someone who's not directly involved. There are some helplines at the end
of this information who you can call.
Talk to someone about how you feel. If you're
worried about your brother or sister going in to hospital, ask if you
can talk it over with the doctor or one of the nurses. When you
understand what's happening, sometimes the fear goes away.
IndependenceSometimes people who
have a brother or sister who is ill or has a disability feel they have
to 'protect' them all the time. They probably started by standing up for
them at school, and this has carried on so that they're scared to leave
them when they go on holiday or go to college.
When you've had to fight for someone for all their life, it can be hard to take a step back and let them be independent.
The futureIf you're worried about
your brother or sister's future, ask your parents if you can all discuss
it together. It can really help to air your feelings; you'll probably
find out that you're not the only one feeling like you do.
You're probably not the only one who your brother or sister depends on – your parents probably feel the same way as you.
Talk it over with them, and see if you can come up
with a solution. You could keep in touch by telephone or email, or you
could agree to come home for the weekend every so often.
You have to help everyone realise that, as you get
older, you have a life of your own to lead and there are people who can
help you too!