Having a brother or sister with a life-limiting condition, or being bereaved, often puts huge mental pressures on siblings. Our siblings groups are a way for siblings to explore their feelings and emotions and when the time comes, to work out how to grieve. In February, a group of supported and bereaved teenagers from both our hospices went for a day out to let off some steam and have some high speed fun Go Karting at Surbiton Raceway.
Research has shown that siblings of children with life-limiting conditions may experience feelings of isolation, anger, jealousy, guilt and anxiety, which if not addressed could damage their mental health. They might feel the need to not share their problems with parents who have to spend large amounts of time looking after their brother or sister, or they might suffer from lack of sleep if sharing a bedroom with a brother or sister who needs regular medical care during the night.
Our siblings’ days are built around therapeutic activities, as well as having fun and making friends with those in similar circumstances. The days also allow children to explore their own interests and express themselves in a variety of ways. The teenage siblings group is for young people between the age of 12 and 18 years.
The day on the track started with an ice breaker, asking the group to challenge their taste buds. Brand labels were removed off various drinks and snacks and the group were asked to vote on their favourites.
Then it was time to put the pedal to metal as they ventured out to the Go-Kart track which was bathed in beautiful winter sunshine. The group took on the care team in an ultimate race – and it was safe to say the care team were left behind – somewhat more cautious behind the wheel!
Sarah Hodkinson, Lead Therapist at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices said, “There are many things that help teenagers as they experience the physical and emotional symptoms of adolescence, including being allowed more independence, building trusting relationships with peers, sleepovers, exploring interests and much more. For young people with life-limiting conditions and their siblings, these things are not always so straightforward. For example, it can be difficult to grant independence to a young person who requires a high level of round-the-clock care, or it can be difficult for a sibling to invite a friend over for a sleepover and to explain all the equipment and carers in their home. At Shooting Star Children’s Hospices our groups and events for young people help provide these necessary opportunities, supporting their development and emotional needs, enabling them to grow in confidence and build a supportive network of peers around them. The young people often tell us that it is very important that the activities are fun! 75% of the young people also tell us that there are no other services or groups that support them in this way. This helps us to know the importance of what we do.”
It wasn’t just the siblings having fun, as during the most recent Youth Club at Shooting Star House, the group were tasked with creating their very own piece of art. Youth club is held every month at both hospices, and is an opportunity for supported young people aged between 12 and 18 to meet other teenagers in a similar position and develop social friendships in a safe environment.
Following the recent transformation of the family dining and lounge area of our Hampton hospice (see the pictures here), it was the turn of the teenage room to have it’s very own transformation.
A graffiti artist from Graffiti Kings joined the group in creating their very own artwork on the wall in the teenage room of Shooting Star House – with amazing results. Dawn Hall, Hospice at Home Care Team Member said, “We usually have between five and ten youngsters at Youth Club and we always try to have a different activity that they have either chosen or asked about before. It’s an amazing opportunity for the teenagers to just be teenagers, chat to each other and forget the disability that can hold them back from other things. It’s also a great social point for the teenagers and interactive too.”
It’s important to have a separate space for our supported young adults and their siblings to be able to enjoy their favourite things. Both hospices have such spaces providing a perfect environment for them to be with their peers, play computer games, listen to music and simply hang out.
We provide an extensive range of counselling, therapies and support groups for the whole family including parents, siblings and grandparents. Find out more about the support we offer here.