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Supporting a child with cancer

my child has cancer
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Discovering your child has been diagnosed with cancer can be a devastating blow for parents, sibling, friends and family. While you may struggle to understand the how’s and why’s of your child’s diagnosis, it is important for parents to understand their role in supporting a child with cancer and helping them overcome the hurdles ahead.

How do you begin to cope?

While many parents may not think they are emotionally strong enough to cope with their child’s diagnosis, most find strength from within and there is a team of people to help support parents and families during this time. Healthcare experts and charities such as Cancer Research and The Rainbow Trust, can help you discover new skills of coping with the emotions and strengthen you to be able to support your child, from relaxation techniques to stress management. Charities can even help with chores around the house to give parents that extra time with their children or can put you in touch with other parents who are going through the same experiences.

child in hospital

Sometimes just speaking to other parents in the same position and knowing you’re not alone can be a huge comfort.  Extended family and friends can offer support and parents who can confide and offload their feelings, often find it easier to cope. While you may want to shut down and close the outside world from you, open and clear communication is vital as it helps families work together and move forward in their journey.

Be honest with the siblings

Everyone reacts differently to a cancer diagnosis and often siblings can feel left out and confused when their brother or sister is diagnosed. It is imported to ensure they understand you are there for them and to understand any emotional or behavioural changes they may go through. A sibling of a child with cancer may become withdrawn and lonely, maybe even jealous of the attention their brother or sister is getting. They may have issues with their school work caused by a lack of concentration. Some may feel guilty they are healthy or that they have somehow caused the cancer, are to blame and are scared they will also become ill. Children are often still developing ways in which to communicate with their parents, so be aware they may not always express their fears or anxiety directly to you.  If you are worried about your child, then discuss with your doctor or health care team who will be able to offer advice and support.

Helping your child cope

Depending on the age of your child, you can help them cope with the effects of cancer in many ways. Younger children will appreciate a colourful room with lots of soft toys, pictures and games and their usual blankets and pillows, making it as homelike as possible. Try and stick to any usual routines you may have at home, such as nap times, TV programs you usually watch or activities you would do (within reason). Limit the number of visitors and if there are times a parent or sibling can’t be with a child, record messages and draw pictures for them.

You may want to work together with staff to teach them how to get your child’s cooperation, reward good behaviour and encourage play and physical activities where appropriate. Give simple explanations of what is happening to your child and teach them how to express their feelings in an appropriate way.

my child has cancer

Talk to your child

If your child is older, then include them in conversations about treatment and diagnosis as much as possible and answer any questions as honestly as you can. Questions such as ‘am I going to die’, can be answered with the help of the health care teams. Listen to your child’s feelings and fears and teach them that feelings of anger or sadness are normal and it is OK to talk about them. Suggest they write their feelings and emotions down in a dairy and encourage them to take part in ‘normal’ activities with their friends. Make sure their days are fun and make plans for trips out so they have goals and activities to look forward to.

There are many NHS health care teams and Charities out there to help support all the family. Charities like the Macmillan Cancer Support group and CLIC Sargent are made up from nurses and volunteers specially trained to provide practical, medical and financial support. Offering advice about cancer, working with siblings and extended families to help them understand what is happening, are just a few of the ways in which charities work with families affected by cancer. Reach out to the people there waiting to help you and know you are not alone.

With so many advances in cancer research, the odds of beating the battle against this disease is forever increasing. Children have an amazing ability to stay positive and strong even in the face of extreme adversity. While the journey to win the fight against cancer will be tough, draining and sometimes too much to bare, with the support of the NHS health teams, charities, families and friends, everyone can face the future, united with hope and positivity.

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About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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