Include the child in caregiving
Suggest that patients allow their children to participate in their care. Having age-appropriate tasks, such as bringing their parent a glass of water or an extra blanket, can make children feel more involved in their parents’ care.
Extend the support network
Encourage patients to build a support network that extends to close friends or school teachers. You can help by directing patients to organizations, such as CancerCare, that provide free professional counseling and support groups for parents and children. Kids Konnected (http://kidskonnected.org) offers face-to-face support groups throughout the United States for children affected by cancer. The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) also have information on helping children affected by cancer on their respective Web sites.
Cancer can impact a family greatly, but that does not mean that there is no more room for fun. Kids (and parents) still need to laugh and decompress from the stresses of cancer. Families that can tap into humor might find a renewed resilience. Suggest watching a favorite movie together, or even turn up the music in the house for an impromptu sing-along.
Perhaps most importantly, parents and caregivers should always show their children a lot of love and affection. Letting children know that they are loved and will continue to be cared for can go a long way toward giving them—and their parents—some peace of mind during this challenging time.
Claire Grainger is coordinator of Children’s Services at CancerCare.