The hospitalization of a patient can be unexpected, traumatic and sometimes frightening for family members. In addition to providing psychosocial and developmental support to patients, the Child Life specialists at Cincinnati Children's also help siblings of various ages understand and cope with the hospitalization of a family member.

Child Life specialists are available to assist siblings and family members directly at the hospital or by offering suggestions for coping at home. Child Life staff can be contacted prior to a patient's hospitalization to offer suggestions and answer questions.

  • Child Life encourages both patients and siblings to attend a pre-op tour prior to planned hospitalizations.
  • Invite siblings to help in the preparation for hospitalizations. Siblings can help pack, make artwork and cards for patient's room, and ride to the hospital with a patient if possible.
  • Allow siblings to visit if possible. Child Life staff can prepare and assist siblings. Child life can prepare provide toys and activities for siblings in waiting areas, patient rooms, and activity centers.
  • Read books about hospitals to children. Young children may benefit from coloring books/pages related to hospitalization.
  • A photo exchange between patient and siblings is often helpful. Encourage siblings to select photos of them to send to the hospital to be placed on the patient's bed or door. Child life can assist families in taking a picture of the patient to keep the siblings aware of the patient's progress and to prepare them for what to expect when the patient come home.
  • It is helpful for siblings at home to have a special calendar or daily schedule so as to keep routines as normal as possible.
  • To help assist with coping, encourage sibling to play and continue normal activities with families, routines and people.
  • For siblings having a difficult time processing hospitalization, the Child Life specialist can make a teaching booklet about brother or sister being in the hospital.