It’s a good thing that your child is getting the care they need for cancer. But the disease and its treatments can be hard for them physically and emotionally. They’ll need extra care and attention from you during this tough time. Here’s what you can do to keep up their spirits and help them feel better.
Comfort Your Child
Know what to expect. Talk to your child’s doctor about the type of treatment they need. Ask what will happen during it and how they may feel afterward. This will help you gently prepare them for what’s coming up.
Stay close. Kids, especially very young ones, will get the most comfort from having you near. Plan to stay with your child during their treatment. Cuddle, touch, and hug them. If you have to be away, try to record a video or set up time for a phone call.
Find a source of comfort. Keep their favorite stuffed animal, blanket, pillow, or toy near them.
Think of different ways to distract. Toys and games can keep younger kids from thinking about any pain they feel. Older kids can escape into books, watch movies, or play video games.
Try to stick to a schedule. As much as you can, have your child stick to a daily routine. If they're very young, feed them and get them to nap at the same time each day. Urge an older kid to stay in touch with friends and keep up with school work as much as they’re able. A regular rhythm to their days and knowing what comes next will help them feel more secure.
Soothe with music. Play lullabies or sing aloud to a small child. Suggest that an older kid make a playlist of their favorite songs that they can listen to during treatment or when they needs to relax.
Remind them to breathe. Deep breathing can ease their stress and help them stay calm. Very young kids can practice by blowing bubbles.
Get support. Encourage your child to talk about their fears and worries so they don’t grow out of control. If they won’t open up to you, ask their doctor if there’s a therapist or counselor who can help. Older kids may want to join a support group and meet other young people with cancer.
Figure out how to deal with other people. Some kids may get upset if people stare at them or ask questions about their health. Talk about this with your child ahead of time and come up with a way to respond, even if you decide to just ignore some comments.
Know the signs of depression. If your child starts to lose interest in things they usually love, seems to have lost hope, or talks about death or suicide, call their doctor ASAP.
Ease the Physical Effects of Treatment
Urge them to take it easy. The most common side effect of cancer treatments is feeling exhausted. Make sure your child has plenty of time to rest. Scale back their schedule until their energy returns.
Make sure they get enough fluids. Drinking lots of water can keep your child’s kidneys working the way they should. And when some medicines cause a runny nose and other flu-like symptoms, water can clear excess mucus, too. You can also offer juice and broth for them to drink.
Serve soft, cool foods that are easy to swallow. Some treatments can cause a sore throat and painful mouth sores. Older kids can also suck on hard candies. Sugar-free types can help mask the odd taste and dry mouth that comes with chemotherapy.
Ask your doctor about over-the-counter relief. Some medicines you can get at the drugstore can ease the headaches or flu-like symptoms that treatment causes. Check with your child’s doctor first, though. You want to make sure anything they take won’t react with the cancer drugs.
Talk about hair loss. Not every child will lose their hair during treatment. But if it does happen, it can be hard for some kids to handle. Assure your child that their hair will grow back, although it may be a different color or texture. Help them choose a hat, scarf, bandana, or wig to wear until then.
Ask for help. Helping your child through cancer treatment is tough. No one expects you to do it alone. If you’re having a hard time handling things, contact your doctor’s office or the treatment center. They can help you find more support for both you and your child.