pandemic

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 https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jir.12793

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.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jir.12793