Brain Injury Blog
Helping Siblings of Children with TBI
by Susan C. Davies, Ed.D., NCSP
A child’s traumatic brain injury can affect the entire family system. When a family is dealing multiple sources stress related to a TBI, it is often difficult to focus on the feelings and needs of the injured child’s siblings.
Siblings of children with TBI may experience a variety of emotions: relief that their brother or sister survived an injury, guilt that they were not hurt instead, confusion over the changes in their sibling, or resentment of the shift in the family’s attention and resources. For those whose injury significantly altered their personality or level of functioning, the sibling may feel grief at the loss of the sibling they once had. They also may be embarrassed by their sibling’s needs or behaviors. Some children may have witnessed their brother or sister’s injury and be fearful or have difficulty sleeping. Older siblings may have new responsibilities related to caring for themselves, others, or the household.
School-based mental health providers, such as school psychologists or school counselors, are in a unique position to help not only a student who has sustained a TBI, but also brothers or sisters in the school system. Many families are not aware that these personnel are available at their schools to provide support and resources to the entirely family. Effective school-based mental health providers will give care and guidance to parents and siblings throughout the process of recovery and beyond.
Some schools may offer short-term individual or small group counseling for students affected by a brother or sister’s TBI. While limited resources may prevent these professionals from being able to offer ongoing counseling, they can:
- periodically “check in” with the sibling to see how they are doing,
- provide the student and family with strategies and resources for coping with stress and change,
- document any changes in behavior or academic performance at school,
- consult with teachers to alert them to signs of depression or anxiety,
- direct families to support groups community-based mental health providers.
Local community agencies may offer Sibshops, which are opportunities for siblings of children with special needs to gain peer support and education within a recreational context. These events acknowledge that being the brother or sister of a person can be a good thing, but also may involve significant challenges. Sibshop activities involve a variety of age-appropriate information, discussion, games, and activities. Information on Sibshops can be obtained at: http://www.siblingsupport.org/sibshops/index_html
February 27, 2013