When a child is diagnosed with a life-shortening or terminal illness everyone in the family is affected. The stress of frequent hospital visits, ongoing treatments and the other realities can take a major toll on family life. That includes brothers and sisters, who can find it difficult seeing their sibling’s health declining as their illness progresses and the impact it has on the whole family.
We know that children can be worried about discussing their fears with their parents because they don’t want to add to their concerns. This can make them feel anxious and alone. We can provide a supportive, non-judgmental place where they can talk about what they’re going through with people who understand. At Helen & Douglas House we offer a range of support to the brothers and sisters of the children that use, or have used, our services.
‘We’re here to offer emotional support to the brothers and sisters of Helen & Douglas House children. We organise lots of individual and group activities like a colouring competition or baking so that they don’t feel isolated.’ Laura, Siblings Team Leader
Giving brothers and sisters the support they need
We’re here to offer emotional support to the brothers and sisters of Helen & Douglas House children. We provide one-to-one support at home or school, as well as group support with other children their own age. We organise individual and group activities so that they don’t feel isolated. It’s a great way for them to make new friends and share their feelings and stories with other children who know what it’s like to have a brother or sister who’s terminally ill.
‘We get to talk quite seriously about how we feel at the moment, speaking about our feelings, and what life’s like at home. You get to bond with other people and you get to know generally, what it’s like for others to cope with a brother or sister who’s ill. It’s also great to be friends. The Elephant Club supports me on a major scale and when I come to the group meetings it really helps me in everyday life.’ Andrew
From their brother or sister’s first stay with us right through to bereavement, we’re here to offer one-to-one emotional support to siblings of the children who we care for at Helen & Douglas House. We can visit them at home or school, or they can come to the hospice, and now we even offer online sessions. These can be for as long and as regular as a sibling needs, and give them the chance to talk openly about their feelings with a trained Sibling Support Worker, with therapeutic play used to support discussion.
“I was really shy about talking about my sister before I started going to The Elephant Club. I didn’t want to talk that much about it. But the more sessions I had I got really into it and they’ve really helped me open up and explain more about it. It’s easier to open up because there are people who aren’t related to you, so it’s easier to talk to them. The Elephant Club gives me more confidence about talking about my sister to other people….and they understand here.” Chloe
We have two groups for the brothers and sisters: The Elephant Club for younger siblings aged 6 to 11 years old, and the Siblings Group for older children aged 12 to 17 years old.
Both groups are here to give siblings a place to think and talk about their experiences in a structured way, in the company of children their own age who are going through similar situations. This helps them feel listened to and understood, as well as giving them ways of coping. Fun activities such as games, art and crafts, treasure hunts and outings also give them the chance to switch off and make new friends.
Residential camps and day trips
Throughout the year we also run some residential camps or day trips. This gives siblings the rare chance to spend time away from their worries, in a different environment. Activities in the past have included a trampolining day, crazy golf, escape rooms and more. They give them a chance to challenge themselves in a supportive environment.