Helping the Siblings of Kids with TBI

[Dr. Mariann Young] What we do, we have two people at our treatment center that have been trained in Sibshops, and so we devote one Saturday every quarter to Sibshops for the siblings. And it's a wonderful experience. We have an agreement with the community college, we have COTA students that come and assist the group leaders. They have fun activities, and then they have a quasi-therapeutic activity, where they have kind of a question and answer, and what's it been like, so that it's not only a sit down. It's fun. It's fun for these kids. They make lunch, they eat together, they share with other siblings in groups what it's like to have a sibling that's injured. So, not only do they share the grief that they went through, the guilt that they've gone through—they share different experiences. What we've seen, which I think is phenomenal, is that a lot of times you have these kids that become so aware, so that they take on a position—and not to defend, but to explain why their brother or sister are different. In that, they really are offended when kids laugh, or when kids call them names, and so they will go, and they explain. They're remarkable. What I've found, in running Sibshops, is that you have, a lot of times, these super-kids. A lot of times, these super-siblings that are just smart, and high achievers, and become protectors. And they're young. I mean, they're 12 and 13. And they're not defensive. They are very calm, they give explanations, and it's remarkable. And again, in some ways, I think it's sad, because I don't necessarily think that's typical 12-year-old behavior, where you have to become an advocate. I mean, it's great... but a lot of times— We truly have had 12-year-olds say, "I think about going to college. I'd like to go out of state. "But I don't know that I could ever go out of state, because I'll probably have to take care of my brother when they grow up." And I think that's uncommon, for a 12-year-old to think, "I'm gonna be a caregiver as an adult." But it's remarkable that they can think like that. So it's kind of the double-edged sword. But the groups. The groups, again, are so effective. Because with the siblings, they get to play. They get to talk. They get to figure out that it's okay, it's okay to have the bad thoughts that they do sometimes, about having an injured sibling, and it's okay to just have fun, and to think about themselves.

Siblings often feel angry, guilty, confused in the wake of their brother or sister's brain injury. Dr. Mariann Young talks about how to help siblings understand the changes in their family.

See more video clips with Dr. Mariann Young.

Mariann Young

Mariann Young, PhD, CBIS, is a licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with children, adolescents and young adults with TBIs for over 20 years initially at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and currently at Rainbow Rehabilitation Centers, Inc. 

Posted on BrainLine April 30, 2014.

Produced by Victoria Tilney McDonough and Justin Rhodes, BrainLine.