How Does COVID-19 Affect Siblings and Families?

How Does COVID-19 Affect Siblings and Families?

By Sarah Davidson

During the pandemic, siblings and families have had to face completely new challenges and experiences while also worrying about the health and well-being of their brothers/sisters in these uncertain times. Families with brothers/sisters with disabilities have had to adapt to their new normal and the challenges of social distancing. Due to COVID-19, many brothers/sisters with disabilities have lost their daily routines and access to in-person programming. Siblings are, in turn, providing key support to their brothers/sisters. It is important to discuss the experiences that siblings are encountering as they become a larger support system for their brothers/sisters and their families. 

In 2020, B.K. Redquest of the Siblings Collaborative explored the experiences of siblings of adults with intellectual/ developmental disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Redquest used an online survey to explore sibling support and concerns during COVID-19. Redquest found that most siblings are worried about the health, well-being, and the disruptions of daily routines of their brothers/sisters during the pandemic. 

Although this is a new experience, many siblings in the study shared support systems that have been helpful for them during the pandemic. 

Self-care: Creating a self-care routine, including going for a walk, starting a new hobby, or identifying alone time. 

Strength from relationships: Discussing shared experiences with other siblings both inside and outside the household and utilizing technology to spend quality time with family and friends virtually. 

Support systems for brothers/sisters: understanding the importance of virtual programming for brothers/sisters, wearing a mask in the community to support their brothers/sisters, and utilizing open communication throughout the family. 

While COVID-19 has isolated many people, it is important to continue to create new memories and experiences that can bring a smile to the whole family, while also being conscious of the sibling’s increased role in the brother’s/sister’s routine.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, siblings are providing key support to brothers/sisters and it is important to include sibling’s mental wellness into the conversation. 

Here you can learn more about the study

Redquest, B. K., et al. “Exploring the experiences of siblings of adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities during the COVID‐19 pandemic.” Journal of Intellectual Disability Research 65.1 (2021): 1-10.