Talking to Your Child about Why Their Sibling is in the Hospital

It’s important to address a sibling’s concerns and discuss why they might not be able to visit them. These can be difficult conversations to have.

Below are helpful tips to guide you through these conversations using child friendly language when answering sensitive questions:

  • Pay close attention to their individual needs. Ask about their day; how their friends are doing; how they are feeling; and what has been hard for them through this experience to show that you care about their needs just as much as you care about their hospitalized sibling
  • Doing something together that they enjoy, a favorite hobby, watching their favorite shows or reading a book together shows that you care.
  • Alert your child’s school. Let them know that that this is a challenging time for your family—especially for your healthy child. This is a great way to get the support your child will need when you are not around. Some schools can assign a go-to person on staff to offer guidance or emotional support during the day. Ask hospital social worker, child life specialist, or teacher about this service for your child.
  • Create a safe and relaxing space or special locations where the two of you can go to (their room, a park, a cafe, the library) spend time together. Encourage your child to freely express their feelings and worries. This will help them cope with difficult times in a supportive and appropriate way.
  • Encourage your child to use their imagination and open up about what they wish or dream could be different. Ask, “What do you wish you could change about this situation?” This allows them to voice their desires, while giving insight into their troubles or worries.
  • Use art, music and other creative outlets to help your child express themselves and what they might be feeling.
  • Validate their feelings by acknowledging their emotions: “I understand you are very sad, it’s okay to feel sad. It must be upsetting not being able to visit your sibling in the hospital.”
  • Answer all your child’s questions slowly and honestly. Speak with respect and in language they can understand. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Contact Phoebe H. Stein Child Life Program at CHAM

Donate to Phoebe H. Stein Child Life Program

Child Life Program Director
Meghan D. Kelly, MSEd, CCLS
Phone: 718-741-2360

For volunteers, school and community organizations, toy donations
Child Life Program Supervisor
Ingrid Ordóñez-Street, MEd/SpEd, CCLS
Phone: 718-741-2556

For internship opportunities
Senior Child Life Specialist Internship Coordinator 
Talia Haviv, MS, CCLS 
Phone: 718-920-2321