Getting help for a young sibling
It is likely that the support available to siblings in your local authority is limited, that waiting lists for specialist services are long and that there may not be a sibling support group available. Does the sibling have a need that can be met by you or your service? This may be one to one support or setting up a sibling group to meet the needs of a number of siblings within your service.
Many siblings will benefit from attending a sibling group to feel less isolated and to learning coping strategies for difficult sibling situations. Sibs charity does not run sibling groups. We train professionals to set up and run sibling groups within their own services, schools and local authorities. You will need to find out about any local sibling groups in your area through the Local Offer for families of children with SEND. If nothing is available locally consider setting up a sibling group within your service.
Young carers’ projects
If a sibling is taking on practical and/or emotional caring responsibilities that would normally be done by an adult, they are a young carer. Sibling young carers can be supported by young carer projects. Some run specific support groups and one to one support for siblings. Some young carer projects recognise the emotional impact on siblings. Most have a high demand for their services and siblings often need to meet strict eligibility criteria around providing substantial care for their disabled brother or sister. Your local authority will have the contact details for their young carers’ project.
If a sibling is spending a lot of time at home with their disabled brother or sister, or their family is not able to go out together, help the sibling to have a short break e.g. access to youth services, facilitating access to after school activities, or utilising some of a disabled child’s personal budget for the sibling to join a club. The sibling may benefit from their disabled brother or sister having a short break. Short breaks for both disabled children and for siblings help improve family dynamics and have a positive benefit for both children. Short breaks for both children can prevent family breakdown.
One to one support
If a sibling is having problems with emotional and behavioural wellbeing they need to have support with this as soon as possible. Some siblings will need to be referred to specialist support services such as CAMHS; others may be supported through counselling and mentoring provision in school. A sibling may need specialist support such as bereavement counselling or help with anger management. If a sibling has a brother or sister with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition, help their family access a children’s hospice for sibling support.
Teaching on specific topics
Some siblings need more in depth information about a specific condition or related disability issues, such as a session with an epilepsy nurse, attending a workshop on challenging behaviour, or learning to use a communication aid with their brother or sister.
Online support for siblings
The YoungSibs service offers support to siblings aged 7-17 years old from across the UK. Signpost siblings to the service to help reduce their isolation, improve their understanding of conditions and develop their ability to understand and cope with sibling issues. Parents can look through the website with younger children, and children at secondary school will find it easy to access the service themselves.
‘I just needed to talk about it to people who know and understand what im going through not just the NORMAL people like my friends – it has made me see im not the only one.’
Siblings can contact the YoungSibs team via the sibling letters page and receive an email reply with acknowledgement of their situation and tips for dealing with it. The team can also help siblings get support from their parent or school. Messages and replies are private unless siblings want to have it published for others to read on the website.
Information for siblings
Siblings can access information about family life, different conditions, feelings and difficult situations on the information pages. The pages are written in a way to help children understand complex information more easily.