A cancer diagnosis is devastating for an individual of any age, but it is particularly difficult for families dealing with a childhood cancer diagnosis. Dealing with childhood cancer can be frustrating, terrifying, and devastating at the same time. Throughout the process, many parents understandably overlook how difficult the diagnosis can be on the siblings of the child with cancer. Of course, any steps you take to help your family through this process should be with the help of your child’s care team, which ideally should include a therapist or guidance counselor.
Siblings should be as informed on the cancer situation as the rest of the family is, as long as it is age appropriate. It can often be scarier to know something isn’t right without being given an explanation. You can discuss the scary parts of the situation, and also share the potential positive outcomes. Be prepared to answer any questions that the sibling has with as much honesty as possible – it’s even okay to say “I don’t know” if you get a hard question sent your way.
While it can be difficult for parents who are caught up in the stress and commitments that come with having a child with cancer, it is important that they take the time to enjoy their other children as well. Make special time for all of your children to show that you care and love for them equally, even if one of them needs more of your attention right now. This reinforces the family dynamic and helps to show that you are all in this together. Encourage your other children to spend time with their sick sibling as well. This fosters bonding that will last a lifetime.
It’s okay to accept help during this challenging time. You might have family, friends, and community members offering to help with meals, chores, or child care. While you might be tempted to turn down much of this help, stop to think about how it could benefit your other children. Perhaps a fun weekend with cousins or neighbors could help to take your child’s mind off of the situation at home.
Childhood cancer is a challenging time for families, but parents can be sure that their other children are receiving the care they need with honesty, quality time, and by opening up opportunities for them to have fun and receive extra attention.