How will I know if my children need help?
Kids Can Cope - For Parents
Information for Parents
Parents usually understand their children's behavior and how they typically react to new or stressful situations.
Children, depending on their ability to talk about how they feel, usually tell us by their behavior what they are struggling with. Quiet children may get more silent, rambunctious children may become more so, children may have more trouble separating from a parent, sleep problems may appear for the first time, and so on. Older children may begin having trouble in school; teenagers may become more distant than usual. Some children begin complaining of physical problems, stomachaches, or may seem fatigued or sad a lot of the time.
Any deviation from how your child usually behaves may be a clue that they need your attention. It will be useful to watch your young children at play. Listen to what they may be saying to their dolls, watch what they are drawing, how they interact with their friends, and how easily they can separate from you.
Young children may regress, meaning they seem to go backwards instead of continuing to learn new tasks. Toilet training may be interrupted; children may become insecure, clinging to you more, or reject your efforts to teach them new ways of behaving. With older children or teens, the same principles apply but these children are better able to talk about their feelings. A simple question like "you seem worried, what's going on?" may open up a discussion of worries you are unaware of.
It is natural to assume that all of your child's troubles are related to your illness. Remember that other things in your child's life are still going on.
A problem with a new teacher, getting invited to a birthday party, etc. will still be an important part of your child's daily life. A child's personality will also affect how they deal with stress. Some children are very "happy go lucky," seem to roll with the punches, and easily adjust to changes in family routines. There are other children whose personalities seem to make everything harder.
Parents discover early that their children are very different from each other. For example, some babies are very easy to comfort while others cry easily and resist cuddling. These personality traits don't change much as a child grows up; parents learn different ways of behaving to accommodate to each child's personality. So, a child with a "pessimistic" personality may require more patience and help from their parents to see the positive side of a situation. It's a good idea to ask your children what you might do to help them to feel better. Always reassure them that they had nothing to do with you getting sick and that life will not always center on your illness.
If none of these things seem to be working and your child still seems distressed or unhappy, or if your medical situation requires you to be in treatment for an extended period of time, talking with an experienced cancer counselor may be helpful.