Having a brother or sister in the hospital can be stressful for a child. Child Life staff at Penn State Children’s Hospital work with these children to help them understand their sibling’s hospitalization. We also teach parents and caregivers ways to support the whole family when one child is sick or hospitalized.
Get Sibling Support
Contact a member of the Child Life team at
717-531-8366 (select option 2)
Our Child Life team offers sibling support through:
- Individualized teaching sessions
- Psychological preparation for dealing with having a sick brother or sister
- Play times to help the sibling cope with having a sick or hospitalized sibling
- Book and resource recommendations
- Workshops for brothers and sisters of patients with chronic medical needs
Child Life specialists also help caregivers understand the impact of hospitalization on siblings and ways to balance giving each child attention.
Attend a Sibshops Seminar
Sibshops are free, one-day workshops that happen each quarter at the Children’s Hospital. They are open to siblings - ages six to 13 years - of patients and former patients with chronic medical needs. Learn more about Sibshops.
Tips for helping your kids cope when their sibling is in the hospital
- Be honest. Answer questions about your child’s hospitalization honestly,keeping in mind your child’s maturity and level of understanding. Encourage the child to ask questions and express feelings.
- Plan ahead. It’s important to prepare and plan as much for the healthy child as for the child who is hospitalized. This may include creating a calendar at home for the sibling that includes a daily schedule, keeping their routines as normal as possible.
- Make it a game. Play about hospital experiences with dolls, puppets or people. This is a good way for children to express feelings when they may be uncomfortable talking about their feelings.
- Read up. Read stories about hospitals or encourage the child to make his or her own story about what it's like to have a brother or sister spend time in the hospital.
- Schedule visits. Encourage your healthy child to visit your hospitalized child, if possible. Child Life staff can help prepare and assist siblings during visits. Talk to your child's nurse or a Child Life specialist about this opportunity.
- Be a team. Invite siblings to help prepare for hospitalizations. Siblings can help pack or make artwork or cards for their sibling’s room.