Ways to Support Siblings

Educators can support siblings in three main ways – through direct connection with the sibling, through working together with their family, and by accessing external supports for the student.
When support is made available to siblings through a coordinated and collaborative approach they are more likely to receive appropriate support leading to positive learning outcomes.

There are many ways that schools and education professionals can support siblings:

  • Recognise siblings as a vulnerable cohort and identify them in family data
  • Develop specific policies and practices to address sibling needs (SibAware™)  
  • Provide professional development opportunities to build skills and knowledge around sibling needs (Sib-eLearning and SibWorks Train the Trainer)
  • Provide opportunities to connect with other siblings (consider running SibWorks at your school)
  • Build opportunities for social and emotional development and positive engagement with fellow students within the school setting
  • Consider the individual mental health and wellbeing of siblings – with an understanding that they are likely to be experiencing higher levels of stress and struggle than the general student cohort
  • Tailor expectations and support learning outcomes for siblings that take into account their individual circumstances (ie allowing for additional time to complete homework) 
  • Ensure that programs and extra-curricular activities offered by the school are accessible for siblings (sports, choir, dance)
  • Gain sibling input into educational support plans for their brother or sister with disability, and what potential role they may play
  • Ensure siblings aren’t overly relied on to offer support to other children with additional needs in their group or class 
  • Provide opportunities for siblings and their peers to learn more about disability through learning activities, books and resources 
  • Give siblings access to resources and information about being a sibling e.g. books, movies
  • Make sure siblings know ‘who’ they can go to for help within the school setting e.g. a particular teacher, school counsellor, etc
  • Make sure siblings know ‘where’ they can go for help outside of the school setting e.g. Headspace, Kids Helpline
  • Encourage, where possible, a positive self-identity in being a sibling and a positive relationship with their brother or sister with disability

There are some key ways for education professionals to partner with families:

  • Undertake formal assessments of siblings’ needs and create plans that aim for optimal learning outcomes e.g. Sibling Support Plan. Regularly review support plans to track needs and progress.
  • Communicate regularly with families to discuss the needs of siblings and the measures being taken to promote their wellbeing and learning
  • Form relationships with siblings and their families to better understand siblings’ home context and the unique needs and pressures that go along with being a sibling
  • Provide families with tools and resources to learn more about sibling needs and ways of supporting them 

By tapping into other professionals and programs, you can further support siblings. There are key actions you can take in this regard:

  • Make referrals to external support services when there are concerns about MH, wellbeing and social connection
  • Talk to siblings and families about recreational programs that might be of benefit to their social connection and wellbeing, e.g. drama, art, scouts 
  • Check if they need support with transport to access social activities e.g. car pooling
  • Engage with external support agencies that have expertise about the needs of siblings, e.g. Siblings Australia, and access resources from these agencies
  • Take the time to learn more about the disability of your student’s brother or sister by accessing information from support services and disability groups