chapter  4
The Sibling's View of the Illness
Pages 12

Many families with a chronically ill child do not communicate well about the disease. For example, in families with a child with CF, Turk (1964) pointed out the "web of silence" in families in which communication serves to conceal as much as it reveals. The demand of keeping the family secret is a heavy burden for a young sibling and threatens healthy development. In families affected by pediatric AIDS, communication concerning HIV and the possibility of a child's early death is often handled as a family secret within and outside of the family (Fanos & Wiener, 1994). Struggling to come to terms with why they must lie, siblings of HIV-infected children repeat­ edly discuss themes of secrecy during clinical sessions. As inquisitive peers ask children why their sibling is so sick, it becomes increasingly difficult not to tell the secret. There is often much anger expressed at parents as a consequence of feeling excluded from disclosure. Children may interpret the reason for their parents not telling them the truth to be that they are not important or that they may have done something wrong, causing the parents not to trust them. Furthermore, the siblings may think that the parents will always keep secrets from them (Fanos & Wiener, 1994).