Today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of JustSibs, a place just for pre-teens and teenagers who have a brother or sister with an illness or injury.
If you’ve been to CopingSpace before, or lived through it, you know – a child’s illness or injury impacts the entire family. Routines are interrupted and lives are shifted to accommodate treatments. Everyone is left feeling scared, worried and overwhelmed. In fact, a child’s diagnosis and treatment is considered a traumatic event.
At Ryan’s Case for Smiles, we get it. That’s why everything we do is designed to walk alongside families and help them cope. We provide bright, cheerful pillowcases to children to give them an emotional boost and remind them that they are not defined by their illness or injury. And we have CopingSpace, a research-informed resource to help caregivers, and the community around them, manage this difficult time and support the entire family. But one important component that has been missing is support for siblings.
Now, with JustSibs, we’re doing what we can to fill this void.
What Is JustSibs?
JustSibs.org is an interactive, digital experience to help teens and pre-teens (ages 11-16) navigate and cope with the many challenges that come with having a sibling with an illness or injury. Through visual storytelling and supportive activities, kids are given a safe space to explore, and learn to manage, a wide variety of feelings that they may face. Plus have a little fun while they’re at it!
Covered topics include:
- Adapting to new situations and environments
- Accepting and coping with negative emotions such as jealousy, worry, guilt and anger
- Managing pressure and stress
- Dealing with adversity
- Seeking guidance and support
- Coping with loss and grief
- Balancing “normal life” with a sibling’s medical needs
- And more.
JustSibs also provides access to additional resources and organizations that assist siblings throughout their journey – from diagnosis through treatment, and beyond. Future updates will include new features, activities, videos and more to accommodate newly identified best practices and needs.
What Is SibXperience?
A core component of SibSpace.org is SibXperience. It is a “choose your own adventure” style comic where teens meet six different characters who face, and overcome, difficult situations – some which may be familiar. They can follow the characters’ stories, then help each tackle challenges while learning to process difficult situations and healthy ways to cope.
The pictures make the stories easier to envision, while various art styles and storylines provide something for many different tastes, circumstances and age groups. Audio narration is also available for those who struggle to read or are visually impaired.
In addition to the comics themselves, there are supportive activities and videos to help teen siblings explore and work through their feelings, prepare for future hurdles, and even learn to draw some of the characters themselves. You can check SibXperience out here.
Why Support Siblings Whose Brother or Sister Has an Illness or Injury?
Understandably, when a child is diagnosed with an illness or injury, everyone rallies around them and does what they can. Unfortunately, this often leaves siblings feeling angry, abandoned, frightened or even guilty for having a “normal” life.
In fact, research indicates that 75% of siblings report posttraumatic stress symptoms that interfere with daily functioning, and nearly 25% develop full PTSD (Kaplan et al. 2013). While the statistics are alarming, the good news is outcomes can be improved through stress reduction and better coping strategies. Yet there are very few sibling-focused resources available – and most are designed for younger children and unavailable, or unhelpful, to teens and pre-teens during this incredibly vulnerable age.
JustSibs, as well as our additional sibling programming, are important first steps in the right direction.
How You Can Help Siblings
While we hope JustSibs provides some much needed encouragement and relief for siblings, we can’t do it alone. That’s where you come in.
Caregivers will always be the number one source of comfort and support for children. And while this is an overwhelming and challenging time, there is still plenty you can do. Making time for a sibling one-on-one, maintaining as many routines as possible, and encouraging them to still have fun and be a kid are just a few examples.
Friends and extended family, as well as teachers and school staff, also have an important role to play. They can include siblings when sending gifts and cards, find ways to help them feel special, and act as an extra set of ears when they need to talk.
Of course, the “best” way to help is as unique as the child themselves. So first, ask what they need. Then visit our Coping Tips for Siblings page for more tips and advice on helping siblings cope.
And please, visit and share JustSibs.org today!
Should you like additional information or resources, you can also download our JustSibs Flyer or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.