How To Take Care Of Your Child’s Mental Health During Cancer Treatment?
15th of February, every year, marks International Childhood Cancer Day. Today we will be talking about a very important subject. How does cancer affect our child’s mental health? I am sure you must have thought of it a million times.
Cancer is a life-threatening illness that not only affects the child but has an equal impact on their family members as well. The best way to deal with this is to accept the reality and move on to making your child’s life better.
Let’s see how that can be done!
How Does Cancer Affect Our Child’s Mental Health?
Most children who are diagnosed with cancer in their childhood aren’t aware of how fatal their condition is. Cancer starts to affect their mental health only when their routine life begins to get disturbed.
In most cases a parent’s reaction to their child’s illness disturbs the child. Their frequent visit to the hospital, their medicines and the side effects of their chemotherapy confuses and disturbs the child.
Your child is seeking answers! Why can’t they go out and play like other kids? Why do they have to skip school time and again? Is something wrong with them? Why are they losing hair? Why are they physically so weak?
These and many more questions constantly run in their tender minds and when we fail to answer them, our child’s mental health starts to get affected. They want to live a normal childhood which cancer has taken away from them.
There are various mental health effects of cancer on children, some of them are listed below;
- Anxiety issues
- Behavioral problems
- Anger related issues
- Withdrawn behavior
- Somatic complaints
- Relationship issues with peer
- Intense stress
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
How To Support Your Kid Emotionally During Cancer Treatment?
Now, you know that your child is very, very fragile at this point emotionally as well as physically. Medicines will help you take care of the physical aspect but you will have to take some active steps in taking care of their emotions, thoughts and feelings.
To do so you will have to do a few things;
- Have a parent-child conversation on a weekly basis: talk to your child about their feelings and emotions at least once a week. This will help you build a relationship with them which is totally based on your emotional connection.
- Do not force them to be happy: if your child is feeling low, talk to them about it and do not ever force them to feel happy. Help them process their current feelings and help them move on. Give them some time.
- Express your feelings freely: children can sense stress, if you open up to them honestly they will learn to do the same. Show them that being vulnerable is alright.
- Answer their questions: they are children, it’s natural for them to ask questions, answer them honestly so that the confusion in their mind doesn’t foster anger, frustration and resistance.
- Be there for them: they might need your support during their cancer treatment and seeing you next to them will give them strength.
- Help them live a normal life: if you can’t take them to the playground, bring the playground home. You can swing your child, slide them through their bed, and play games with them. Compensate for what they might be missing in your own unique way.
Improve Your Child’s Mental Health During Cancer Treatment!
Taking care of your child’s mental health during cancer treatment is as important as providing emotional support to your child with cancer. I once crossed paths with a mother of a child with cancer and all she was worried about was how she could make her child smile again.
Back then I was an intern working with the psychiatric department in that hospital, and all I could say to her was to be patient. But today, I want to tell her there is so much that you can do to improve your child’s mental health.
Here’s how you can support your child during cancer treatment and help improve their mental health;
1. Actively Listen to their problems: They will be having physical as well as mental problems. You need to actively listen to them, find out about their problem and help them find a solution.
2. Have Open Communication: it’s very important for them to understand their condition. Tell them the truth. Talk to them about cancer and how they can heal. Will power can work wonders in treating fatal illnesses.
3. Boost their morale: they might feel low and lost dealing with cancer, it’s your duty to motivate them and boost their morale.
4. Practice mindfulness together: mindfulness will help you and your child calm your racing thoughts and give you a sense of control over your feelings.
5. Identify negative thoughts: in whatever you do, try to identify negative thoughts in your child. Once that’s done, try to replace them with positive ones.
6. Schedule Family Time: Family time can give a lot of strength to your child. This is the most important step in supporting your child emotionally and mentally. Watch some cartoons together or play some games together.
7. Help Them Express Their Feelings: motivate them to maintain a diary or start journaling. It will help them put words to their thoughts and feelings and it will help them process your emotions in a healthy manner.
8. Seek Professional help: if at any point you think that your child’s mental health is declining it’s always best to get professional help.
Things to consider for Parents of Children with Cancer!
- Your mental health is also at stake here, except that you need some help too.
- Do not give your children extra privileges and leeway
- You need Self Care and Me Time, get it
- Both partners should be on same page, support each other
- Home school our children if they are not able to go to school
- Childhood cancer is curable, so take a deep breath and stay strong
I hope this piece of information on supporting your child emotionally and mentally during their cancer journey helps you in bringing about a change in your child’s life. Cancer can have long lasting mental health effects on your child, all of it can be avoided by supporting your child and helping them become emotionally and mentally strong.
Do share this article with your friends, family, and parents of children with cancer so that they can know how to support their child emotionally in their battle with cancer!
Thanks for reading.
Take care and stay safe!