When a child or youth is hospitalized or diagnosed with illness, each and every member of the family is affected. An illness in the family can have adverse developmental, psychosocial, behavioural and emotional outcomes for siblings, yet support is rarely provided to this population and challenges are not typically addressed. The focus of pediatric health care settings is on the child with the illness, and unfortunately siblings’ needs and the impact the illness has on them goes unnoticed and unaddressed. Due to COVID-19 restrictions over the past few years, siblings and family members have been further removed as they have not been able to be present in hospitals, and so the impacts on them may be far greater.
Upopolis Sibling Island is a private online group specifically created for youth aged 10 – 18 who have a brother or sister with a chronic or critical illness, medical condition, or disability. The Island is monitored led by a Certified Child Life Specialist who monitors it daily, and provides ongoing psychosocial support, education, and engagement opportunities to the healthy siblings. Siblings of youth often experience feelings of loneliness and guilt, are at increased risk for mental health issues and may have trouble relating to or talking with peers at school who do not understand what they are experiencing. The Sibling Island provides a space for youth to openly express themselves, as well as meet and connect with a community of other siblings who are facing similar life situations.
Why siblings should join the Island?
To receive information and ask questions about their sibling’s diagnosis/condition.
To access tips, resources and activities to help cope with the feelings and experiences associated with being a sibling of someone with an illness.
To have the opportunity to socially connect with other youth and create a peer support network.
To join monthly programming and group sessions – including fun games nights!
Overall benefits of Sibling Island:
The Sibling Island provides an opportunity for youth to talk about their experiences, which helps them process what they’re thinking and feeling and in turn, helps them develop strategies to manage the challenges and difficulties they are facing.
Being part of a community helps minimize the sense of isolation that siblings often face when their brother or sister is ill, and helps normalize and validate all feelings youth are having about their sibling’s illness.
Youth can access completely trusted and vetted resources that are specific to their experience; child life specialists are present online to answer questions, concerns or worries.
What you can do?
If you are a professional who knows someone who you think would benefit from joining the Sibling Island, visit this link.
If you are a youth who would like to join the Island and connect with other siblings (or a parent of the youth), please email: firstname.lastname@example.org