It is important to take care of your own needs and to not feel guilty about doing so. For example, eating and sleeping well, exercising if possible, dealing with any health problems and taking regular breaks will help you cope and care for your child.
Parents often find it hard to express their grief and fears to each other, with the result that they bottle up their feelings, become tense and argue more than usual.
Different people have different ways of coping with stress and what helps one can irritate another. If you can, try to talk to each other as openly as possible, and be as supportive and patient as you can.
But it can help to keep up with your usual interests as much as possible and if your energy allows. Having a break and being distracted from the cancer and its treatment will do everyone good.
Some of your friends may not know what to say to you, so it may be up to you to bring up the subject of your child’s illness. Others may surprise you with their sympathy and understanding.
They usually need to be given accurate information about what’s happening and, if possible, be asked to give help and support.
You’ll probably find that your emotions go up and down a lot during the days and weeks following the diagnosis, and that your feelings change over time.
There are many people who can help you deal with these difficult feelings and emotions. You might want to talk to someone close to you, such as your partner or other family member. However, some people find it easier to talk to someone they don’t know so well such as a healthcare professional or perhaps a colleague at work.
The staff at the hospital, including specialist nurses and doctors, can listen and talk to you. Many hospitals treating children have parent groups where you can meet other parents with similar fears and worries.
Every family is different, but many parents find it helpful to be open and honest about the situation. It can help to keep family and friends informed over the weeks and months of treatment. It’s then easier for them to understand any changes in behaviour and to offer suitable help and support.
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Together we can close the gap in childhood cancer care.