General Practitioners are in regular contact with families that may include a child with disability or chronic illness. Siblings of these children can be ‘at risk’ for a range of mental and physical health problems, if not supported themselves. See Concerns for sibs
Some siblings will cope well, especially if they have strong connections to family, friends and the community. However, even if children cope well, they may still be in need of support to prevent problems developing in the future. GPs can play an important role in helping families access resources and support services.
Things to consider in relation to siblings of children with disability include:
- Information needs
- Family life
- Social connection
Here are some GP sample questions to consider if talking with parents or with siblings.
Possible interventions with parents
- Offer support to entire family through recognition of issues, understanding, provision of information re books or websites and appropriate referral where necessary (may include focused psychological strategies or referral to psychologist via a Mental Health Plan (2710)
- Suggest parents contact Siblings Australia re resources/information sessions or other sibling programs
- Ensure the parents and family are well supported in their journey
Possible interventions with siblings
- refer a sibling to books and websites that might help with understanding
- let a sibling know that it is ok to have a mix of feelings – all brothers and sisters have mixed feelings about their brothers and sisters at different times
- let a sibling know they are not alone – refer them to KidsHelpline
- research if there are any sibling programs in your area for referral
- help them to explore how they might improve their social networks
- if the sibling is an adult, refer them to Siblings Australia, which provides a number of online and face to face opportunities to connect with other sibs.