When Your Child Has Cancer: How to help families cope in difficult times

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, it can feel like the world has dropped out from under you. Many parents report feeling hopeless and helpless, but there are steps you can take to help you and your child cope with the diagnosis.

Educate Yourself Your child’s oncologist should have pamphlets and booklets explaining your their condition, but these often cover only the basics. Visit your local library and search the Internet for information, including symptoms, treatments and possible complications. If your child is old enough, let them do the research with you. For younger children, provide information in small segments using age-appropriate words. Be warned, however, that sometimes the information you may find is inaccurate or outdated. If this information is questionable or troubling to you, raise it with your child’s doctor.

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Find a local support group There are many online information groups devoted to the myriad childhood cancers. They provide a great deal of information, but tend to pale in comparison to a support group that meets in your area. Local support groups can provide offer hints, help and suggestions, such as rides to doctor’s appointments, parties for children, Mom’s and Dad’s day out for overworked parents, gifts or benefits for well siblings and so forth. Your local hospital or oncologist can provide referrals to local support services your family may qualify for.

Take care of yourself It will be tempting to focus all of your energies on caring for your child, but you will need to keep yourself healthy, too. Eat healthy meals on a regular schedule and get plenty of sleep and exercise. When your child is in the hospital, it is easy to nap in the bedside chair and eat all of you meals from a vending machine, but these things will sap you of energy.

Schedule time for other family members The child who is ill will understandably be the focus of the family, but don’t forget your spouse and any other children. With the increased stress, marriages frequently suffer. Sibling jealousy can rear its head, causing guilt on the part of your well child. Make sure you schedule times for family and friends that don’t revolve around the hospital or therapy treatments. Keeping your lives as normal as possible will make coping with our child’s cancer easier for the whole family.

Treat you child normally It is natural to want to pamper and spoil your child after a diagnosis, but it is important to maintain his daily routine. Let them continue to attend school if he is strong enough, and make sure that he keeps up with any chores that were his responsibility before the diagnosis. Children are perceptive, and if your child feels like he is being singled out for special treatment, he will be more uneasy about his prognosis.