Feelings and Family

When caring for your child in the hospital, it can be easy to forget what you and others in your family need during this difficult time. Remember that family relationships go both ways – giving and receiving. To work well, even in crises, there has to be mutual giving and receiving. It may be helpful to think about what you and others may need now.

What Do My Other Children Need?

  • Ask what they miss most.
  • It is sometimes helpful for them to have something of yours to carry around or some small, symbolic present as a sign that you are thinking of them. And vice verse, they may want you to have something of theirs.
  • Ask your spouse, or the person spending time with them when you can’t, what they talk about missing.
  • Ask other parents of children with cancer what has helped their other children.
  • Talk to the social worker or psychologist about what other parents have done for their healthy children.

What Do I Need From My Healthy Children?

  • It is important to think about what you need and what you are missing most from your other children. Sometimes, what you miss is also what they miss most!
  • If you are at the hospital, can you find special telephone time with them to talk about their day? Could they dictate or write an email or text to send to you when they get home from school? Could they call you on Skype?
  • Could there be one special afternoon per week you get to spend with them? Give it a name – talk about it during the week, plan the activity together. It will help refresh you to be involved in activities that are not illness-related, even for an hour.

What Do My Spouse and I Need From One Another?

This is often a forgotten question as you are both so busy trying to take care of your sick child and your other children. But it is worth asking if there is something he or she needs that would help.

  • A compliment.
  • More sleep.
  • A night out of the hospital.
  • A night together.
  • Reassurance.
  • Time to talk about what are the critical things you absolutely will not give up in your family interactions and relationships and what are the things you can let go of for a while.

Talk about how you will divide your time and who will give up what to spend more time with your ill child or with your other children. Try to talk not only about financial concerns, but also about feelings, wishes, and hopes as a parent responding to cancer in your child. You may have different views about this and talking about it may prevent anger and disappointment. You may have to have this conversation several times as circumstances with your ill child change and the demands on the two of you change. But if you keep talking about this, it will help.

Managing Care for a Child When Parents Are Divorced

Having a sick child changes the relationship between all parents, including those who are divorced. With things so changed right now, the father or mother of your child who may no longer be your spouse may be more involved with you than ever before, hurting too, and as anxious as you.

This is a tough place to be, but it will be best for your child if you can find a way to share care that draws on your strengths and less on the issues that pulled you apart. Frank talk may be needed about how you will function in this situation.

  • How will the medical information be conveyed? Who will get it from the doctors and with whom will it be shared, and when? Who will talk to the child about the information?
  • How will visiting work?
  • How will you share time with your child, including nights in the hospital?
  • What about your child’s step-parents? How will they be involved or not?
  • How will financial changes in the family due to cancer treatment be worked out?

If these issues seem too difficult to work out, you may want to talk with the hospital or clinic social worker. In some divorced families, things fall into place pretty easily while in others, previous difficulties cause things to erupt when there is a crisis. Previous arrangements for sharing your child’s time may not work now – a different plan may need to be worked out. Typically it is very important for both parents to be involved with their ill child.

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