When a child or young adult is referred to Naomi House & Jacksplace, we offer support to them and to their whole family, including their siblings.
Jenny, our Children and Young People’s Support Worker tells us about how this support is given.
We offer a programme of activities for the brothers and sisters of any child who accesses our services, as well as siblings who have been bereaved. The sessions are entirely focused on them and it is an opportunity for them to get together with other brothers and sisters who share similar experiences and feelings.
We arrange sibling group sessions during the school holidays which include a mixture of fun and therapeutic activities. Some will take place at Naomi House & Jacksplace and others, such as outward-bound activity days, will be offsite.
We have found that siblings can sometimes feel less confident in themselves and can feel isolated from their peers. This could be due to social experiences, where they’ve not had the opportunities that other children of their age have had. At the activity days, we help them build up their self-confidence as well as encouraging them to have fun and make new friends.
My children love these events as they get some special treatment rather than the focus always being on their sibling who has additional needs. They always talk about the other children they meet and it's great for them to socialise and interact with other children who have an understanding of what their everyday life is like and how it can change rapidly.
For some siblings, having a brother or sister with additional needs may mean that they can’t go to after school clubs, or have play dates with friends. They may plan to do something at the weekend and the plans get changed because their brother or sister is poorly.
There are both social and therapeutic elements to the groups. The children will have lots of fun at events like the Christmas parties, but at other sessions we may have activities that help the children to think and talk about emotions. We might look at feelings and do activities that help manage those feelings, but most importantly it is all about them and who they are as an individual, but there is space to talk about their sibling if they want to.
In the last year we have started running a group specifically for bereaved siblings every half term and has more of a therapeutic element to it. Art and craft activities help the siblings to explore their emotions and share special memories about their brother or sister.
Our 9 year old daughter, Harriet, has been attending the sibling days for a few years now. Her brother died when he was a baby and Naomi House & Jacksplace have not only supported us as parents, but they have been there for Harriet too. It gives Harriet a sense of belonging when she meets up with children in a similar situation and it has given her the confidence to talk about her brother Edward with her friends, even when she might not feel she can talk to us, her parents, for fear of upsetting us. She enjoys the many different activity days and treasures the things she brings home from the craft sessions. She thinks of Naomi House & Jacksplace as a kind of comfort blanket, knowing that it is a safe space. As a family, we will be forever grateful for the support they have given us.