Guide to POTS

Hoping this makes a confusing chronic illness diagnosis easier

POTS and Siblings

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I can only speak to my own experience and hope that gives you some insight into what POTS is and how it can affect you or the people around you.

It is so hard to have a sibling in normal circumstances but when one child in the house has a chronic illness it adds a whole new curveball to the mixture. Here are some tips below to help navigate these circumstances and hopefully help the situation.

Be Kind When You Can

If there are two or more children in your family and one is sick while the other(s) is/are healthy, the sick child tends to receive more attention. This imbalance can greatly affect any household, especially with adolescents and teenagers who always want and need attention. If you are the sick sibling, try to be kind when you can but stand your ground. You might not recognize the lack of attention your sibling is getting while your parent(s) are with you at doctor’s appointments, spending money on your medicine, and getting food that you can eat, etc. All of this can strain your siblings and make them feel less important than you. Your household most likely revolves around the sick sibling, and when it is a chronic illness, it can also strain the healthy children living in the same household.

Stand Up For Yourself

Don’t give in to your siblings when it comes to your needs. Compromise where you can, but if going or doing something will make you sick in the end, don’t do it. Stand up for yourself. I have one very clear memory of my sister begging me to go on the merry-go-round, and I reluctantly agreed despite knowing I’d be dizzy afterwards. As a result, I was sick for the rest of the day. Trust your instincts and say no when necessary. On the flipside, if it won’t make you sick, go for it! What do you have to lose?

Try to Make It Even

If you choose a movie on Monday night, let your sibling pick one on Tuesday, and then be extra nice and let your parents pick one on Wednesday. But genuinely try to make it as even as possible. From an adult perspective, your sick child will miss out on a lot, but your healthy child will also feel like they’re missing out on a lot. Strive to make things as fair as you can when both kids are home to prevent resentment from growing. Extend this approach to other aspects like dessert, the spot on the sofa, etc.

Missing out on things

The child with a chronic illness will miss out on a lot, such as prom, school dances, after-school sports, etc. However, the healthy child will also feel like they’re missing out on a lot, like one-on-one time with parents or even grandparents. Why does the sick kid never have to go to school while the healthy one does? It may make sense when you step back, but things rarely make logical sense to kids. Just because the healthy child seems to have more opportunities doesn’t mean they shouldn’t also have those one-on-one moments. Make time for that as well.

It’s never going to be even

The idea of fairness went out the window when there was more than one child in the family, let alone when one became sick. Things are never completely fair. The oldest child gets stricter parents, the youngest gets put in time-out more often, etc. That never changes. What does change is how you (either the child or the parent) handle it. Accept that things won’t always be equal. By constantly trying to make everything fair, you might actually harm yourself or your children more.

Open communication

Encourage open and honest communication within the family. Both the sick and healthy siblings should feel comfortable expressing their feelings, concerns, and needs. This can help avoid misunderstandings and foster a supportive environment. One of the best ways to achieve this is through games. Research has shown the benefits of board games in promoting communication. Give it a try! But perhaps not Monopoly—that game often ends badly.

Educate siblings about the illness

The healthy sibling needs to know about the chronic illness of the sick sibling. However, the healthy sibling should never be the caregiver for the sick sibling. By helping the healthy sibling understand the symptoms, limitations, and challenges their sibling faces, they can better grasp what is happening in the household. This can also promote empathy and reduce resentment or confusion. It can provide an explanation as to why the sick sibling cannot participate in certain events, go to certain places, or engage in certain activities (like hiking).

Support for the healthy sibling

While it’s instinctive to take care of the sick sibling, it is equally important to support the healthy sibling. Acknowledge their needs and feelings, engage in conversations with them, and check in on how they’re feeling. Offer them support and opportunities to pursue their own interests, hobbies, and achievements. This can help them feel acknowledged and prevent them from feeling overshadowed by their sick sibling’s needs.

Seek outside support

Consider involving a therapist or counselor who specializes in family dynamics or supporting children with chronic illnesses. They can provide guidance, strategies, and a safe space for the family to navigate the challenges together. Therapy can benefit all children, and family therapy can be especially helpful for the entire family.

Foster sibling bonds

Encourage positive interactions and bonding experiences between the siblings. This can include engaging in shared activities, discovering common interests, and supporting each other’s endeavors. Building a strong sibling bond can help alleviate tensions and foster a sense of unity. Try different activities such as a family game night, weekly family movie nights, cooking together, etc. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate; even small activities can make a difference.

Further Reading

Dinleyici, Meltem. “Evaluation of quality of life of healthy siblings of children with chronic disease.” NCBI, Accessed 23 May 2023.

Risi, Andrea M. “How to Help Children Cope with a Sibling’s Chronic Illness.” GoodTherapy, 31 July 2014, Accessed 23 May 2023.

“Siblings of Children with Chronic Illnesses or Disabilities.”, 21 November 2015, Accessed 23 May 2023.

Virant, Katie Willard. “When a Sibling Is Chronically Ill.” Psychology Today, 15 January 2022, Accessed 23 May 2023.

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