Transplant: Impact on siblings

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Learn how a child's transplant can affect their siblings and how you can help them adjust.

Key points

  • A child's transplant can bring up mixed feelings in their siblings. Although they love their brother or sister, they may resent the amount of attention that they receive.
  • Some children can also feel guilty because they are well or may worry that they might develop an illness.
  • You can help your children adjust to a transplant by spending some time alone with each one and setting up new family routines.

A child's transplant can affect your other children too, both in terms of your relationship with them and their relationship with the child who is sick.

Extra time with the child with health issues can mean less time spent with your other children. Parents often describe having a special relationship with their chronically ill child that is different than the one they have with their healthy children.

How your child's siblings might feel about your sick child

Your other children probably have mixed feelings about the child with transplant. Siblings often report that, although they love their brother or sister, they sometimes feel angry, resentful and jealous about the amount of attention that the child receives from parents and others.

Sometimes your other children may feel guilty because they do not have health problems themselves. Or, their sense of personal safety and security might be affected, especially if your child with a transplant was well but suddenly became very ill.

Your other children will sometimes express these feelings in words, but other times they might express them through their behaviour.

How you can help all your children adjust to a transplant

If you are worried about how your other children are coping with issues related to transplant, please talk with someone you trust. It can also help to try to continue family traditions or start new ones so that nobody feels left out.

Ideas from other parents

Here are some suggestions that parents have shared on how they’ve improved relationships in their families.

“We have three children and one has a transplant. We try to make sure we each spend time alone with each child for a couple of hours, once a month. We don’t have a lot of money, so we can’t always do things like go to a movie or go out to eat, so we try to do inexpensive and fun things, like baking a cake or going for a walk in an interesting part of town.”

“My sons get along okay but sometimes they get competitive and they argue. I spend more time with my younger son, partly because he’s younger, but mostly because he’s the one with the health problems. I try to encourage both of my children to do things in their areas of interest. My younger son (who has a transplant) is really into music, so he’s thinking about taking some kind of lessons, or even teaching himself how to play an instrument through YouTube videos. My older son is very active and loves sports, especially soccer. He’s on a team now and I make sure that someone from our family goes to each game to cheer him on.”

Further information

For more information on the impact of an organ transplant, please see the following pages.

Impact of a transplant on your child

Impact of a transplant on parents and caregivers

Impact of a child's transplant on finances

Last updated: November 7th 2016