Emotional Effects of Diagnosis - Frequently Asked Questions

Does epilepsy put stress on siblings?

19 January 2010
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It certainly does.

With so much to attend to for the child with epilepsy, parents may tend to overlook the effects of seizures on siblings. These children may feel left out, neglected, jealous, resentful, scared or even unnecessarily responsible for their sibling's epilepsy. Siblings of children with epilepsy have also been found to be at an increased risk for emotional difficulties. These children may feel a great deal of jealousy toward the child with epilepsy who receives more attention from you. Siblings may have trouble adapting to their situation. They may feel overwhelmed by their complex feelings and thoughts about the demanding situation in which they find themselves. Siblings may also feel alienated from their parents or from the child with epilepsy. Siblings still need to contribute their fair share to the family.

However, parents should acknowledge their feelings and deal with them accordingly. Many of the negative feelings of siblings can be eliminated or reduced by providing them with reassurance and adequate information about epilepsy. Siblings are also part of the process of socialisation; the things that siblings do together provide a child with seizures a normal experience. This is particularly important for the development of social skills. Siblings may play together at home or in the neighbourhood with other children. They may also fight with each other. They can help provide a "normal" environment for the child with epilepsy. This is vital for the child with epilepsy who must develop his/her social skills, just like everyone else.

Siblings should not be told to treat the child with epilepsy any differently because he/she has seizures. Siblings who understand seizures and are not fearful of them can often help ensure that other children do not overreact to a seizure, and by calling a designated adult to assist the seizing child. Include brothers and sisters in the care of your child with epilepsy; this can help them to feel useful, and can also be a welcome support to you as parents.

Do note that placing responsibility on the sibling to supervise a child with seizures is not recommended. This puts the sibling in a parental role and is too much responsibility for a child. Brothers and sisters need to feel included in helping their brother/sister manage the disorder but should not feel responsible for managing it.


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