It can be hard for brothers and sisters when a sibling is sick in the hospital. They are often left to stay with other family members or at friends' houses, their routines are disrupted, and most worry and wonder what is happening and if the sibling in the hospital will be all right. Child life specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital not only want to support your child in the hospital, but also help everyone in your family — especially brothers and sisters — feel supported.
If you would like your children to visit the hospital, the child life specialist on your unit can help prepare them for what they may see. As long as your children are not exhibiting any symptoms of a cold or the flu, they are welcome to all units of the hospital where their sibling is hospitalized. Ask your nurse to contact your child life specialist or refer to our contact list so we can help prepare siblings for their visit(s) to our hospital.
Before your children come to visit their hospitalized sibling, it is important they understand why their sibling is at the hospital. One of the best ways to start this conversation is to ask what they understand about why their brother or sister is in the hospital. Not only does this start the conversation for you, but it is also a way to clear up any confusion or fantasies that your child may have as to what has been happening.
The language you use for a preschool child is different than that for a teenager. Your child life specialist can help you find the right words. When siblings do come to the hospital, bring some of their favorite things to play with (such as small video games or coloring books) in the event their brother or sister isn't in the mood to play.
Established by the Charna Radbell Foundation's Gift of Sunshine Fund, Charna's Kids' Club is a free recreational program designed for school-age children age 5 and older whose siblings are patients at the hospital. Charna's Kids' Club is located in the Tower 6 Child Life Center.
Charna's Kids' Club addresses the needs of siblings within a nurturing and fun environment. Multidisciplinary recreational activities help them to better understand their surroundings, express their feelings, and meet with peers who are experiencing similar circumstances.
The warm and inviting Child Life Center is designed to minimize the anxiety and stress associated with having a brother or sister who is ill. Children enjoy arts and crafts, music, drama, special events, and group games and activities, and can also receive help with homework. Snacks are also provided.
For more information on Charna's Kids' Club, please call 212-305-7420.