Sibling Support Program

Who we are

The Friends of Karen Sibling Support Specialists are a team of experienced Certified Child Life Specialists and Licensed/Board Certified Creative Arts Therapists.

Who we help

Because we understand that an illness affects the entire family, we specialize in working with ill children and their siblings.

What we do

Our Sibling Support Specialists provide home visits as well as virtual sessions. Using art, play, bibliotherapy and other creative modalities, we work one-on-one with the ill child, and/or siblings, as a family group and with parents to:

  • Enable the child to identify feelings and fears, and find a successful way to cope with them.
  • Educate the children about the disease and what to expect during treatment, to improve their understanding and ability to cope.
  • Encourage family dialogue about the challenges of caring for a child with a life-threatening illness. Act as a bridge for improved communication.
  • Make use of specially-designed tools — such as our Sharing Box, Worry Stones, Family Journal kits — to foster communication between family members and encourage self expression.

A family’s world is turned upside down the moment they learn their child has a life-threatening illness. The stresses of living with and adjusting to a serious illness can cause a variety of reactions in children, who experience the dramatic changes in their family life and may have difficulty coping with them. One of our signature values at Friends of Karen is the deep understanding of the impact an illness has on the entire family. The experience is undoubtedly traumatic for the ill child, whose life is suddenly filled with change and uncertainty.

When a child is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, the main goal and focus is to save a life. This can be all consuming, and can also often inadvertently contribute to siblings of the ill child feeling less important and forgotten.  Often siblings struggle to connect while separated because one is in the hospital and the other cannot visit. After hospitalization siblings also struggle adjusting to their new normal. Ill children may not be able to play the same way they did prior to diagnosis.

Sibling Support Specialists at Friends of Karen help siblings reconnect through these difficult times. Since 2009, Friends of Karen has been helping ill children and their siblings to understand the illness, strengthen connections and to build personal resilience armed with empathy and coping skills.