Living with children's cancer

Looking after your other children

Having a brother or sister with cancer can be a frightening experience for your other children. They might feel a range of emotions similar to your own. However, they may not express those feelings in the same way. The way they respond to these emotions will depend on their age and maturity level. 

Brothers and sisters might miss playing with their sibling. They might worry about you because they can see you are upset. Focusing on your child with cancer may also leave your other children feeling excluded and left out, even jealous. This is especially true during the early stages when you have to spend a lot of time at hospital or going to appointments. Siblings might resent their life being disrupted. They might feel guilty because they’re well when their sibling is sick. Or, they might feel guilty about just having these kinds of negative feelings. (See Talking to your child and children about cancer.)

These feelings can be very confusing for your child's siblings. You might see some behavioural changes, such as:

  • fighting with friends, family and teachers
  • performing less well at school
  • less motivated and engaged in family life and activities
  • disruptive behavioural changes. 

Talk to your other children and give them as much information as possible. Include them in family discussions and decisions and maintain their normal activities and routines as much as possible.

It's also important to tell the school what is happening so that they know that the sibling is going through a hard time. It's important to explain this because not all teachers will be aware of what is happening and may not have any experience with cancer.


Tips for looking after your other children

  • Reassure your other children that they are loved – remember, this can be expressed in many ways.
  • Make sure you spend time talking with your other children about how they feel. Tell them what they can do to help, but don't expect too much from them during this stressful time.
  • Talk to your other children about their sick sibling. This will help them understand what's happening and help them worry less.
  • Include siblings in hospital visits, but don't force them to go if they don't want to. Ask someone to look after them while you visit the hospital.
  • Find opportunities to spent time or participate in activities with siblings by themselves.