When someone is diagnosed with cancer, everyone in his or her family is affected. This holds especially true when a child has cancer. Different families have different ways of coping, but there are some sound strategies that anyone can employ. For useful tools and tips that may help, see the following pages:
Helping Your Child Cope
Regardless of age, children are usually aware when their health causes their parents concern. Your child may experience a variety of emotions, such as anger, guilt, fear, anxiety and sadness, all in quick succession. After a cancer diagnosis, your child will need to cope with many changes. Challenges include being in an unfamiliar environment, meeting and trusting healthcare professionals and undergoing procedures that may be uncomfortable. Your child may feel a loss of control over his or her world. The extent of your child’s distress depends on your child’s age and personality. Children who have serious illnesses are likely to show changes in behavior. Recognize that your child will continue to grow and develop throughout the course of cancer treatment. To help your child to adjust and to accept these changes, try to maintain a supportive yet matter-of-fact attitude. It will help your child to cope with his or her illness if you
- Provide structure. Children crave structure. It makes their environment feel more predictable and, thus, more secure. It can also increase the sense that their parents and people they trust are in control of the situation. Make their daily lives consistent whenever possible. For example, plan a regular routine that you will follow during your time together in the hospital or clinic.
- Allow your child to make choices when possible (for example, let him or her choose which movie to watch, or what snack to eat). This can help your child with his or her feelings of loss of control.
- Acknowledge and praise your child when he or she is doing difficult things. Praise is the best way to reinforce your child’s good behavior.
- Use touch to comfort infants, toddlers and older children. Hold or rock your child. Even if your child does not understand your words, the sound and tone of your voice can still be comforting, too.
- Use the same consequences for bad or inappropriate behavior as you did before your child was diagnosed with cancer. Consistency will maintain structure and normalcy.
- Show that you respect your child’s feelings of anger, worry, sadness or fear. Give your child appropriate outlets for expressing these feelings, such as drawing or keeping a journal.
- Keep your child busy with activities during treatment to take his or her mind off difficult and unpleasant experiences.
- Help your child to stay connected with friends from home and school with phone calls, video chats, emails, texts or visits, if possible.
- Look for support groups for children with cancer in your area or online. Talking to other children who are going through a similar experience can be very helpful for your child.
- Ask for professional assistance from the healthcare team for your child if he or she is having an especially difficult time adjusting to the cancer diagnosis and its treatment.
Read the PDF, Coping With a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis, for more ideas for helping your child, family and loved ones cope.
We're Here to Help
You can get much-needed support and information to guide you through your child's cancer journey from LLS. Get financial support, listen to or watch our teleconferences and webcasts, access our free education publications or join a support group. We offer a wide range of both local and national services. The LLS network of regions is located throughout the United States and Canada.
If you would like to learn more about our programs or if you have any questions about blood cancer, you can contact an Information Specialist who can provide you with the latest, most accurate disease-related information:
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free booklets:
- Coping With Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma
- Pictures of My Journey Coloring Book