“When Tali was going through her cancer treatments, and after she passed away, the support we received from family, friends, and our community was invaluable – not only for us and for Tali, but also for our other two young children. We will always be incredibly grateful to those who rallied around us, spending time with Tali’s twin brother and her older brother, making sure they were well taken care of and attended to, and helping us to access resources offering sibling support. Remembering what a huge help this was for us, I want to help other affected families by directing them to available sibling resources.”
Kim Doron, Tali’s Mom; Co-Founder and President of Tali’s Fund
For parents, there is no pain like seeing their child suffering. When they have a sick child, not only do they need to care for this child, but they also may have other children who need attention and care in some way as well. Leaning on the community support system around them in a time of struggle, especially one involving a serious illness, is often what helps get families through the long days and nights.
There are so many layers to being the sibling of a sick child, no matter how old or young. Families may need to spend countless days driving to and from medical appointments, followed by countless nights lying awake and on alert in case care or comfort is needed overnight. These things can inadvertently result in siblings feeling somewhat neglected. This is often compounded by genuine confusion as to what is going on with their sibling, the fear and upset of seeing them in pain, and, in some cases, not being able to recognize or understand why they can’t communicate in the same way. Navigating these unimaginable waters can drastically change a family’s dynamic and is something a sibling will carry with them forever.
Parental instincts are to care for and protect all their children, but there are some cases when, try as they might, they can’t protect their kids the way they want to. As parents of a child with cancer, as well as parents of one or more other children, they are placed in an impossible situation, and it can feel like their world is collapsing around them. There is often a community standing by to support them, but sometimes they can be so deep in autopilot mode to focus on their child that they may not be aware of the people who are within arm’s reach and ready to help in whatever way they can.
When it comes to support for siblings, this is one of those times when asking for and/or accepting outside help may be what is needed. There are a variety of resources available – to help siblings understand, to get them through the door of processing all the feelings they have, and to give them some much-needed support, time, and attention. Below we have compiled some links that may be of assistance, some of which are tailored specifically to families of a child with brain cancer. Please share them with anyone who may find them helpful.
If you’d like to write to us at Tali’s Fund, you can do so here: https://talisfund.org/contact-us/
Sibling Support Project:
The Sibling Support Project was started by five students at McGill’s Ingram School of Nursing and focuses specifically on resources for siblings of paediatric brain tumour patients. This initiative is supported by the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.
SUPERKIDS is an educational program run by the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. It seeks to spread education, awareness, empathy, kindness and understanding. This program is designed to help teachers and parents educate kids and teenagers about brain tumours and how the brain works.
Imaginary Friends Society:
This series of short films was created to help younger children understand the complexities of cancer through engaging and warm characters that break down details in a manner that is less daunting and more imaginative.
Upopolis Island is a free, fun, and secure online community that connects youth 10 to 18 with others like them who are going through life challenges in North America. It is a place where youth navigating life challenges can connect in private groups with other youth who are navigating similar challenges, including being the siblings of a youth who is living with a medical condition. They can access peer support, resources, activities, and more. In Ontario, OPACC is a Upopolis referral organization. If you know a child who is interested in joining, visit their website to learn more, and fill out the online user pledge to get them registered through OPACC at tinyurl.com/4779zb4r
Tiny Superheroes Program:
This program offers various types of support, but every child’s journey at Tiny Superheroes begins with a cape – bringing courage, hope, and strength to the kids and families that wear them. They welcome kids of all ages, including siblings and other close supporters, who they call Sidekicks. You can nominate Sidekicks at TinySuperheroes.com/nominate.
Club Negu provides sibling boxes – “a box of only the best toys for a courageous supersib”, as well as other gifts.
SuperSibs is dedicated to comforting, encouraging, and empowering siblings during their family’s battle against childhood cancer. Their Comfort and Care mailing program sends age-appropriate mailings over a two-year period that include coping skills and encouragement for siblings as their brother or sister fights cancer.
Chai Lifeline offers amazing support to children with sick siblings, including companionship initiatives, special retreats, after-school programs, and more.