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Siblings Need Support

How to Support Siblings of a Child Who Experienced a Traumatic Event

Siblings of children who have gone through a traumatic event can also have secondary trauma or feel like a “secondary victim.”

Each child grieves and handles trauma in their own way. A secondary victim is someone who has the feelings and impacts of trauma without directly going through the trauma itself. It is common for siblings to have emotional reactions when other children in the family go through a traumatic event.

With your love and support these feelings will decrease.

The sibling may feel:

  • Anxiety about what will happen next
  • Helpless or the need to control what is happening
  • Fear or confusion about the future
  • Lonely or sad
  • Worried that life won’t get back to the way it was

They may:

  • Act out or be irritable
  • Be quieter than usual or spend more time in their room
  • Complain of tummy aches or headaches
  • Act younger than their age

Your Response Can Help


One of the best ways you can support the siblings is to recognize how they are feeling. Recognize these are signs of stress. Know they will get better with your support.


Give simple and honest answers about the event. Allow time for siblings to ask questions.


Keep the same family routine as much as possible. Prepare children ahead of time when a routine will be changed.

Other Adults

Let the other adults, such as teachers, childcare provers and extended family, know that the siblings need extra support during this time.

When you begin to recognize secondary trauma, their experiences can be supported. The healing process can begin. Continue to allow them time and space to process their feelings in a safe and supported way.

Remember, healing takes time

Last Updated 02/2023

Reviewed By Sarah Zawaly, Clinical Program Manager

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The Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s is a premier program that has helped set the national standard for enhancing and strengthening evaluations of child abuse and trauma.