Being a sibling can be a rewarding yet challenging experience, especially when one’s brother or sister is going through a health crisis. When a child is diagnosed with PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) or PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections), it can be an unsettling time for the entire family. Siblings, in particular, may find themselves facing a myriad of emotions and challenges. Here are some guidelines on how to provide support to siblings during this difficult time:
Encourage open dialogues within the family about the diagnosis, treatment plan, and what to expect. Providing siblings with age-appropriate information can help alleviate fear and anxiety.
Ensure that siblings receive individual attention and recognition of their feelings and concerns. Scheduling regular one-on-one time can help maintain a sense of normalcy and reassure them of your love and support.
Provide siblings with educational resources about PANS and PANDAS to promote understanding and empathy. Understanding the medical situation can help reduce misconceptions and fear.
Engage with support groups and counseling services. Connecting with other families going through similar situations can provide valuable insights and emotional support.
Encourage Expressions of Emotions:
Encourage siblings to express their feelings, whether through talking, writing, or creative arts. Validating their emotions is crucial for their emotional well-being.
As much as possible, maintain regular routines to provide a sense of stability. Consistent routines can help siblings adapt to the changes happening within the family.
Promote Healthy Coping Strategies:
Teach siblings healthy coping strategies such as mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and physical exercise to help manage stress.
Celebrate the achievements and milestones of all children in the family, not just the child with PANS or PANDAS. Recognition of each child’s unique strengths and accomplishments fosters a positive family environment.
Educate extended family, friends, and school personnel about PANS and PANDAS to foster a supportive environment for all family members.
Seek Professional Help if Necessary:
If needed, don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling to help siblings process their emotions and cope with the changes in their family dynamics. This can be done through individual and/or family therapy.
The journey through diagnosis and treatment of PANS or PANDAS can be a challenging time for siblings. With patience, communication, and support, siblings can navigate these challenges and continue to develop a loving and understanding relationship with their affected brother or sister. Through education and empathy, families can foster a nurturing environment for all children to thrive.