Arrangements for siblings

Preparing siblings for the hospital visit

  • Describe and allow children to see the medical equipment being used to care for your child, including how it looks, how it sounds and how it is helping. By seeing the equipment and setting in which it is used, siblings will no longer have to rely on their imagination to make sense of things.
  • A child life therapist may be helpful in preparing siblings for a health care experience. Call the child life department at (502) 629-7542 to schedule a visit.
  • Describe to siblings how their brother or sister may look different than usual (bruises, abrasions, stitches, tubes, tape, bandages, etc.)
  • Encourage siblings to talk to and touch their brother or sister, even if the patient is unable to respond.
  • Allow siblings to determine the length of their visit, as much as is medically possible. Some children just need to see what is happening, and others may want to spend more time in the hospital room.

Afterward, siblings may want to go to the waiting room or outside to play. Children use play to help them cope with stressful situations.

Talking to siblings about treatment

Siblings of hospitalized children have a great need for information. Although you may want to protect your children by keeping information from them, what they imagine is happening may be far more frightening than reality. Some parents underestimate their children’s capacity to understand and their desire for explanatory information about their brother’s or sister’s injury or illness.

Children are better able to adjust when they are given honest and age-appropriate information and the opportunity to see their hospitalized brother or sister. In emergency situations, explain as soon as possible how serious the illness or injury is, and when your child will be able to see his or her sibling. For planned admissions, involve siblings in the preparation — packing for the hospital, hospital tour, etc.

Preschool-age siblings

  • Typically, young children interpret the world in terms of their own immediate observations. Because they have a limited range of experiences from which to draw, they engage in magical thinking.
  • To prevent misconceptions, preschoolers need to know that they cannot catch their sibling’s condition and they did not cause the condition.
  • Children ages 2 to 6 are concrete thinkers. Explanations should be as clear as possible.
  • Children in this age range are impacted by emotions of others around them.

School-age siblings

  • Grade school children with typical development patterns need information to answer their questions.
  • Older children may hold beliefs about the cause of the condition that place the blame on the ill or injured sibling. This may be a reflection of the sibling’s own anger, a part of the belief system of the sibling or family, or a projection of guilt onto the patient.
  • School-age children may have more specific questions than preschoolers. They may ask, “Why does she have to go to the hospital?”
  • Children in this age range are concerned about how the illness or injury will impact them.


  • Teens may feel confused, responsible, helpless, angry, lonely, afraid or guilty.
  • They may repress sadness.
  • Teens typically see themselves as invincible and have an “it will not happen to me” attitude.
  • They may want to assume more of an adult role and be protective.

Teenagers often have specific questions about the special needs of their brothers or sisters.

Plan Your Visit -5437

Poison control center: 65 years of preventing illness and death

The Kentucky Poison Control Center of Norton Children’s Hospital has been working to reduce illness and death from poisoning in Kentucky for 65 years. The center provides 24/7 free and confidential access to specially trained […]

Read Full Story

What are brain tumor symptoms in kids?

Brain tumors are growths of abnormal cells that occur in the brain or the tissue or structures near it. Brain tumors can be invasive (destroying nearby tissue or travelling to other spots in the body) […]

Read Full Story

Is poison ivy contagious? How does it spread?

Now that the kids are getting out more, they’re at greater risk of brushing up against some poison ivy and inadvertently spreading its oil on their skin.   Poison ivy doesn’t typically spread from person […]

Read Full Story

Study shows adolescent girls at risk for intimate partner homicide

Nearly half of women who die by homicide in the U.S. are killed by a current or former intimate partner. Now a new study in JAMA Pediatrics shows that adolescent girls are at risk for […]

Read Full Story

Dog bite prevention – even dear pets can become aggressive

Across the nation there are some 800,000 dog bites reported each year. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to bites, even from the most innocent of dogs. Last year, 394 children were treated for […]

Read Full Story

Search our entire site.