When you bring your child or teen home from the hospital or rehabilitation facility after TBI, your home life may not return to the way it was. Brothers and sisters can be strongly affected by their sibling’s injury and by the changes in your relationship to the injured child.
Parents will likely need to pay more attention to the needs of the child with TBI, which may leave the other siblings feeling left out or ignored. In addition, dealing with your child’s injury may put pressure on your relationship with your spouse. Your children may notice their parents fighting more, or acting distracted, tired, or closed off.
As tired as you probably are during this period, you need to pay attention to possible changes in the behavior of your non-injured children. Behavior changes could be a signal of pressures that are waiting to erupt.
Siblings may resent the changes they observe in your home. Or they may feel responsible in some way for what has happened. Some kids will cope by being helpers, even if it means over-riding their own needs. Others may act out in ways that put more stress on the family.
Look for behaviors like these in your non-injured children:
- Changes in eating
- School problems
- Unusually quiet or unusually quarrelsome behavior
Of course, this is not a complete list. Any changes in your children’s normal behaviors may be signs of stress. If you see such signs, it’s important to find a way to provide support to help your children adjust to what has happened. They may need help from a professional counselor to understand their sibling’s new condition and how to relate in a supportive way. And they may need help with how to explain what happened to their friends in a constructive way.
Peer supports, such as a teen or family support group, might also be helpful to you and your children. Contact the Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona to learn more about support resources.