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Constance (From left to right) Johnnie and Frances, parents and caregivers for their daughters, Samantha, sister and donor, and Constance, transplant recipient.

Signs your child may be feeling stress

Children show signs of stress differently depending on their age and developmental stage. If you notice any of these signs in your child, talk to your child’s health care team. They can share resources to help you and your family. Signs of stress for siblings of transplant recipients may include:


    • Changes in eating habits
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Drop in school performance
    • Headaches
    • Anxiety
    • Worry
    • Anger

“When he first got sick, it wasn’t really much different, but then when he went into the hospital, everyone was giving him presents and I was just the sister. I didn’t show that I was jealous, but I was jealous. My advice to brothers and sisters going through this is to talk to someone besides your close family. And I’d just say for the parents to just talk with them a little and more let them talk instead of having the parents tell them stuff.”
    - Anna, sister to Joe who had a transplant at age 15

 Coping with stress

1. Provide some routine

Children find comfort in routine. Here are some ways to help keep routines going:

• Prioritize family time. Make special time to check-in.
• As much as you can, pick something that will be the same every day. For example, keep breakfast or dinner at a set time.
• Tell your children about upcoming changes. Make a family calendar so everyone knows what’s coming next.
• Arrange for your children to participate in school activities and spend time with friends.

If your focus needs to be on your child’s transplant recovery, ask other family members and friends for help supporting your other children. Tools like and can help you organize help from family and friends.

2. Help children express their feelings

Not all children are affected by stress in the same way. It’s normal for siblings to have many different feelings. Common feelings include:
    • Loneliness
    • Sadness
    • Anxiety
    • Jealousy
    • Guilt
    • Fear

You can help your children identify, express, and manage their emotions in a healthy way. Here are some tips. Use what’s most appropriate for your children’s ages and developmental stages:

• Talk openly and honestly about difficult topics.
• Have your children draw pictures of how they feel. Then, ask them to talk about what they drew.
• Ask your children to finish the sentences, “I am worried about ___________.” “You can help me feel better by ___________.”
• Use dolls or action figures to have your children act out their feelings.
• Give your children a journal where they can write down their thoughts and experiences.
• Listen and provide reassurance.
• Encourage your children to ask questions. Give as much information as they are able to understand based on their age and developmental stage.
• It’s okay to say, “This is new for me too,” and that you’ll work together to keep figuring it out.

The transplant experience can lead to positive experiences for siblings, too. Your children might be more sensitive to others’ feelings or have more coping skills.

3. Show your children that you support them

Throughout your child’s transplant journey, you can support siblings by showing and telling them they are loved and you are there for them, too. These ideas might help:
• Take time each day to ask about their day, activities and friends.
• Celebrate the accomplishments in their lives.
• Ask a family member or friend to spend quality time with your children when you can’t.
• Encourage family and friends to include all of your children in their visits and well-wishes.
• Tell each child the special things you love about them.
• Hug your children and say the words, “I love you.”

“My advice to other parents who are going through this and have a child of younger age is to rally friends and relatives around them, to support them, because they need as much attention as the child in the hospital does.”
    - Terry, father to Brittney and Ashely, transplant recipient at age 19


• SuperSibs! Powered by Alex’s Lemonade Stand offers support and age-specific resources for siblings of children with cancer
Be The Match® Patient Support Center has activity sheets for siblings of children who had a transplant

CALL: 1 (888) 999-6743
Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Central Time
All of our programs and resources are free.

Llame al: 1 (888) 999-6743
De lunes a viernes, de 8:00 a.m. - 5 p.m. Horario central