Abandonment

If parental attention revolves around the sick child, siblings may feel isolated and resentful. Even when parents make a conscious effort not to be so preoccupied with the ill child, siblings sometimes still perceive that they are not getting their fair share of attention and may feel rejected.

One day when my 4-year-old son was in day care, we unexpectedly had to bring Erica in for emergency surgery on a septic hip. (It turned out to be a life-threatening surgery, and she ended up staying in for weeks.) I called the day care and said that I couldn't pick up Daniel by closing time, and the teacher said, "No problem, I live right across the street and I'll take him home for dinner." We went to get Daniel that evening, and he was very withdrawn. Later, he exclaimed, "All the mommies came. Then teacher turned out the lights, and you didn't come to get me." Then he burst into tears. In hindsight, one of us should have gone to bring him to the hospital to just sit with us. It was tense there, but at least he would have been with us, included as part of the family.

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