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How to Help Children and Teens When Sibling Finishes Cancer Treatment

How to help children when sibling finished cancer treatment

Change is hard for everyone, even if the change is something you look forward to. Your family’s transition at the end of your child’s cancer treatment is no different.

This transition can be exciting and scary all at the same time. It’s normal for everyone in the family, including siblings, to have a wide range of emotions. Those emotions might include relief, joy, fear, and jealousy.

It may take time for siblings to adjust to this transition and the changes in family routine during this time.

How to Support Siblings During Transition Off Cancer Treatment

  • Check in with siblings about how they feel about their brother or sister completing treatment.
    Have open talks with each child before the completion of treatment about what to expect. Allow them to ask questions. This might include:
  • What the schedule and routine will look like    
  • Who will be responsible for which chores
  • When friends will be able to come to the house
  • Prepare siblings for physical changes they might notice when their brother or sister first completes treatment. This might include their brother or sister sleeping more during the day or having a harder time keeping up when playing.
  • Help siblings think through how to respond to questions or comments from friends about their brother or sister’s diagnosis and treatment.
  • Keep siblings’ routines as consistent as possible.
  • Set aside time to share activities and talks with siblings to make sure they feel supported and get enough attention.
  • Establish and stick to limits and expectations for behavior. For example, siblings should still show respect, complete chores, and follow directions.
  • Remind siblings their brother or sister is still the same person as before. Encourage them to maintain their sibling connection.

How Infant, Toddler, and Preschooler Siblings May React After Cancer Treatment Ends

Young siblings may take a step back in development during big transitions. An example is having toileting accidents when children were previously potty-trained.

They might also want your attention more than usual or have trouble separating from you. Some young siblings may have more behavior problems than they typically would. During this transition, it is helpful to maintain consistent limits and boundaries.

How Teenage Siblings May React During Transition After Cancer Treatment

Some teen siblings feel protective of their brother or sister following treatment. They may struggle with their brother or sister getting sick instead of them. They might feel as if they should have done more for their sibling during treatment.

They may also feel frustrated that their parents needed to be with their brother or sister during treatment. As a result, their primary caregivers may have missed some important events, such as a game the sibling played in or a performance they gave. Encourage teen siblings to share how they are feeling.

For more information for siblings of childhood cancer patients, check out: 

Reviewed: January 2021