Children: How To Help Children Cope With Your Health Condition
In GeneralNext »
How to help children cope with serious illness in the family? Following are tips that have helped other people. Tips for children of specific ages follow these general tips.
- Keep life at home as normal as possible.
- Let each child know how much you love him or her
- Take time alone with each child. If you can make time each day, so much the better. If you can’t, at least make alone time every few days.
- Don’t hide your emotions. Be sure to show your child your positive, hopeful side. (To learn about tips for staying positive, click here)
- Encourage each child to share his or her emotions or concerns - including to you. Remind a child that feeling emotions is normal -- including feeling several emotions at the same time.
- Keep your children on a routine.
- A routine is important for children, even when other people are caring for them.
- Let other adults or older children know what the routines are so they can help keep each child on schedule. One way to do this is to write down, for each child:
- Each child's habits and schedule in and out of school, including time for going to bed (and exceptions, if any).
- Meals and favorite foods
- Scheduled play dates
- Sports practices
- Time outdoors
- Whatever else makes up the child's life.
- How the child is disciplined (and how the child is not disciplined).
- Experience indicates that it is helpful to talk about the importance of working together as a team. Let each child know that he or she is part of your team and that he or she can be a big help to you. Assign tasks appropriate to each child's age.
- Assigning too many tasks can be overwhelming for the child.
- It is better to assign one or a few tasks that are appropriate for the child's development level. In other words, only assign children tasks they are able to do.
- You can talk with a child about tasks one-on-one, or at a family meeting.
- Whenever a child does something for you, be sure to thank them and show your appreciation.
- It is not advisable to force a child to do a task.
- See to each child's emotional and physical needs.
- Do what you can to develop a support network for each of your children.
- Encourage each child to interact with children of his or her age.
- Consider assigning a child to a family member or friend to help support the child emotionally and physically. As with adults, the key is to get the child to talk about his or her emotions and reactions to what is going on.
- Continue normal discipline. Children need to know their limits, including during periods of upheaval.
- Watch for over reactions. For instance, if a child becomes unduly fearful if a baby sitter can no longer help.
- Your health:
- Consider asking the child if he or she is actually concerned about you - and the fact that you may not be here.
- Reassure the child about your health and prospects.
- If a child develops problems:
- See Common Behavioral Reactions Of Children And What To Do About Them
- Consider consulting a psychosocial professional if you need help with a child. If necessary, set up meetings between the child and a mental health professional such as a social worker, psychotherapist or psychiatrist.
Children who are in school: Talk with tyour children's teachers, the school principal or head administrator and the school nurse so they can watch for any changes in your children or the way that other children treat your children. Forewarning also allows for preparation in case of possible problems.
When you talk with each of these people:
- Tell them about your diagnosis.
- Tell them how your diagnosis disrupts family life with emphasis on your child's life.
- Tell them what you have told your child about your diagnosis and what could happen to you.
- Tell them about any changes you've noticed about your child.
- Ask them to keep an eye on your child and to let you know if they notice any changes.
- Provide an easy means to get hold of you during the day - such as a mobile phone number or e mail address that you check frequently.
Centering Corporation has a variety of books for children facing loss from the death of a parent. See www.centering.org or call 866.218.0101 or 402.553.1200
- Give teenagers the space they need. This is especially important if you rely on them more than before to help with family needs.
- Give teenagers time to deal with their feelings, alone or with friends.
- Let your teenager know that he or she should still go to school and take part in sports and other fun activities.
- The national nonprofit group KidsKonnected in Laguna Hills, California offers programs (including summer camps, socials and workshops), books, and information and referrals to support groups for children who have a parent with cancer. See: www.kidskonnected.org or call 800.899.2866
- Children tend to want to know about how special their parents are. Consider writing an Ethical Will.
- Most cancer centers have a library full of books for children that parents can read with them.