The physical and emotional strains placed on the family of a childhood cancer patient can be extremely difficult, especially for siblings. That’s why one of the nation’s largest pediatric cancer centers, located at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, created the Sibling Support Program. The comprehensive, family-focused course has been named one of the best in the country by SuperSibs, the national organization dedicated to supporting brothers and sisters of childhood cancer patients.
More than 12,000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer each year. Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sibling Support Program was developed by medical experts who wanted to help comfort the brothers and sisters of their cancer patients who often feel confused, scared, angry and alone.
“Understandably, so much attention is focused on the ill child,” said Micah Skeens, PNP, Sibling Support Program Coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “However, healthy kids struggle to understand their own emotions as well as the stress on their parents. This program helps the entire family cope and support each other.”
The 12-week program is designed to decrease anxiety, stress and guilt while increasing communication. Siblings participate in group discussions and workbook activities, sharing emotions and learning coping and communication techniques. The completion of the program is celebrated with a graduation ceremony titled “A Celebration of You.”
Funded by a donation from the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, the Sibling Support Program serves as a national model because of the scope of care and support it provides to the entire family.
Nationwide Children’s offers the following tips to help siblings cope with illness:
-Be informed by learning about the illness and treatment.
-Talk about change and its effect on your family.
-Share feelings and talk openly with one another.
-Support each other during stressful times.
-Take care of yourself, and don’t forget to make time for rest, relaxation and fun.