Skip to main content

Effective Nov. 1, 2023, clients and families, visitors, vendors and staff are required to wear a mask while moving throughout the hospital, including while in elevators, in spaces where clients receive care or participate in research. A medical grade mask will be available upon entry.


Parent tip sheet: Supporting siblings

Suggestions and resources to best support and empower your sibling child.

A mother reading a story to her daughter; with a pair of walkers resting on the coach

Below, you’ll find tips on how to best support a sibling of someone with a disability. The following was developed in collaboration with parents and siblings of Holland Bloorview clients. 

Ideas on how to support your sibling child:




Provide information about the diagnosis or medical condition

  • Provides knowledge of what the disability or medical diagnosis is, and what to expect
  • Helps to reassure the sibling and to answer the questions they get from others
  • Give clear, understandable information and explanations
  • Make sure they understand that no one is to blame for their sibling’s disability
  • Figure out when and how to explain a diagnosis

Encourage open family discussions about siblings’ feelings and concerns

  • Allows siblings to talk about both positive and negative feelings, in a safe space
  • Provides a chance to talk about ways to handle stressful events such as: stigma, discrimination and bullying
  • Recognize their feelings and concerns
  • Expect and acknowledge that they may have different emotions related to their sibling’s disability, and that it’s okay
  • Try to share your time equally between your children

Set reasonable expectations for all of your children in the family

  • Allows each sibling to learn and get involved when they are ready
  • Helps your child to reflect on similarities and differences to their sibling with a disability
  • Prevents them from feeling like they have to do/achieve more for their sibling with a disability
  • Helps teach independence in the child with a disability so that each child can be an individual
  • Ask each child what they think you can expect from them – include them in the process
  • Understand that each child has different strengths and needs
  • Give clear expectations to ALL of your children (including the child with the disability) and explain that expectations can change
  • Recognize the accomplishments of each child
  • Keep the door open to conversation

Encourage siblings to be children, and let them know  they can find a balance between being a kid and a caregiver too

  • Siblings are children too and could use time to play and live their own lives
  • Helps them feel that they are not the only one responsible, especially in the future
  • Allows them to see the importance and value of taking time for themselves
  • Helps them to develop their own identity and interests
  • Make sure there is dedicated time that is just for the sibling (whether it is time with their friends or time with you)
  • Discuss different roles in the family and relieve any pressure they might feel about having to be an ‘adult’ all the time
  • As a family, you can all talk about what their sibling’s life can look like in the future.

You can also find appropriate ways to have siblings take part in medical appointments

  • Your child can provide valuable ideas
  • They are an important member of the sibling with a disability’s care team
  • Siblings will be in the lives of the sibling with a disability longer than anyone else
  • Share up-to-date information in a simple way with your child so that they can be involved in family decisions
  • Your child can observe their sibling with a disability in therapy or in a learning setting
  • Prepare your child for changes in home life before they happen

Your sibling children might want to talk to another sibling. If they do, you can help them connect.

  • Your child will share many of the same concerns as parents, but also have their own concerns or worries as siblings
  • The chance to discuss feelings with other siblings is important – it might be hard to talk to their family about it right away
  • Many siblings often grow up without resources to support  them
  • Siblings need the same kind of peer support that parents get from parent support groups
  • Siblings need to understand that it is okay to take care of themselves as well
  • Ask them if they want to meet other siblings of people with disabilities and let them decide if this is something that they want
  • If the child does not  want to join a group yet, keep the door open to discuss it when they’re ready
  • Provide opportunities for your sibling child to receive support – going to sibling workshops or a Young Carers Program if they wish
  • Let teachers know what is happening so that they can also provide appropriate supports to your children
  • Model self-care as a parent

Do you have a suggestion or resource for this tipsheet? We always welcome new ideas.
Let us know at

This list was last updated by a Family Support Specialist in July 2023.