Sibling Support Program

Sibling Support
A family’s world is turned upside down the moment they learn their child has a life-threatening illness. The stresses of living with a seriously ill sister or brother can cause a variety of reactions in children, who experience the dramatic changes in their family life, but may have difficulty coping with them. Since 2009, Friends of Karen has been helping siblings to understand their sister’s or brother’s illness and to build personal strength. At the hospital or in a family’s home, or virtually, our experienced child life specialists and creative arts therapists work one-on-one with the ill child, with siblings 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.
  • Make use of specially-designed tools — such as our Sharing Box, Worry Stones, Family Journal kits — to foster communication between family members.
We interviewed some Friends of Karen siblings about their experiences. Read their insights and good advice in Sibling Spotlight.

Art Bags

The art bag is a critical part of each child’s healing as art and play are natural modes of communication for children and they allow them to open up, understand and express far more than they would be capable of with words alone. These materials and supplies are also integral tools in the sibling support specialists’ work of providing illness education and emotional support. Click the menu items below to read more about each of its contents.

Common materials used in Sibling Support Program activities.

Glittering heart stickers may be used to create a beautiful
poster to remind siblings of their support system and all those who
their heart is connected to when they are separated due to long
hospital stays.

Teens may collage the cover of a journal, making it their own
and using it to safely share whatever feelings they are keeping inside.

Siblings may complete a body outline sheet and indicate where they feel anger, sadness and worry in their bodies.
Children may decorate the outside of a mask to express the feelings they show to the world and the inside to illustrate feelings they keep hidden.
An ill child may make worry stones and use them as a way to cope with growing fears.
A grieving family may work together to create a memory box for a brother or sister who has died – decorating it with care and filling it with treasured mementos and memories.

Friends Having Fun

“Friends Having Fun” is a weekly virtual group that is a social outlet for ill children and their siblings and a space to normalize their experience and connect with others. The one-hour sessions led by two Friends of Karen’s creative arts therapists include art projects, music, movement and games to promote interaction.