Covid-19: 7 tips for adult siblings as restrictions lift
As an adult sibling of someone with a lifelong disability you may be feeling anxious about the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and England’s ‘Freedom Day’ on the 19th July may not feel very ‘free’ at all.
Many adult siblings are worried about passing on coronavirus to their clinically vulnerable brother or sister. Some have been shielding for so long that it’s hard for them to imagine living any differently now. Many more have been living extremely cautiously, feeling guilty any time they enjoy something new. News reports about different variants fuel anxiety about the future. Parents need more emotional support and care services are limited. It’s tough for siblings juggling their own family lives, work and supporting their brother or sister and parent(s). Sibling’s friends want to return to usual activities and colleagues say things like ‘but hasn’t your brother been vaccinated?’ or ‘you don’t live together, so surely you don’t have to be that careful?’. The lack of understanding can be really tiring at times and leaves siblings feeling ignored.
Does this sound all too familiar? You’re not alone! Here’s our advice at this time:
- Put yourself first. Siblings are used to coming second (or third, or fourth…) to the needs of another. You don’t have to justify or change what you’re doing to suit friends, colleagues, parents, or anyone else. Do what feels comfortable for you.
- Look at what’s good. What went ‘right’ for me and my brother/sister today? Keep counting the good things – however small. They do add up.
- Pace yourself. The changes in the world around us are exhausting. Siblings are often the ‘superhero’ of the family – always the stable and sorted one who fixes everything. Try and take things steady, just a day and an hour at a time. Burnout helps no one.
- Notice how you feel each day. Siblings’ feelings are often overlooked by others, which can make it hard for siblings to recognise them in themselves. Give yourself a 5 minute check-in each day, and ask yourself ‘How am I really feeling?’. Write down the response. Look out for patterns and think about what your mind or body needs next.
- Focus on what’s within your control. Many siblings feel very protective of their brother/sister and want to eliminate all level of risk. But this is impossible and attempting it will leave you frustrated. Stay focused on what you can control – your own actions.
- Set aside time to cope with bigger feelings. You matter, and bigger feelings need more of your attention. Guilt, worry and anger are very common experiences for siblings – take a look at our advice on managing these here. If you’re struggling with anxiety about coming out of lockdown, check out this advice from the mental health charity Mind. If you find that low mood or anxiety are impacting your everyday life, then make sure you see your GP. You deserve support in your own right.
- Remember you’re not alone! Meet other siblings who really understand what sibling life is like, at an online support group here.
You can give feedback on this page here.