Life After Hospitalization: Helping Kids With Cancer Adjust
For a child who's been hospitalized with cancer, coming home to one's own room, own belongings, and siblings to play with — and perhaps even argue with — feels good. And for parents, there's nothing like having a child home again.
But for many families, readjusting to home life after a child's lengthy hospital stay can take some time. Parents often feel nervous about easing their child back into life at home, and kids feel anxious, too. Many wonder: "Will others treat me differently now?," "What will happen when I go back to school?," and "Will I be able to handle these changes?"
It's normal for everyone in the family to feel apprehensive about this readjustment. But with a little time and patience, most kids with cancer get back into the swing of things just fine.
First and foremost, establishing a routine is probably the most important thing you can do to help your child readjust. Kids are comforted by routines — by knowing what the day holds and what is expected of them. And a child who's been sick with cancer is no exception.
As much as possible, include your child in the activities and chores of everyday life, tailoring them to his or her abilities. Some extra TLC will be in order depending on the medical requirements, but try not to treat your child differently (or offer a different set of rules) than siblings who are not sick.
Depending on your child's age, you may also want to encourage active participation in his or her own care. Perhaps your child can change a bandage or begin to learn when to take medications. Having these sorts of responsibilities can give older kids a much-needed sense of control.
Coping With Feelings
In the beginning, your child's behavior may change. Some kids regress and act more immaturely than they used to. Others have trouble sleeping or experience separation anxiety when their parents leave the room. And they may be defiant or more demanding of parental time and attention. This goes for kids with cancer and their siblings, who are also trying to adjust to this new set of circumstances.
These new behaviors are really just a child's way of coping, so be reassuring yet firm in enforcing rules. Your child might acknowledge the emotions beneath these behaviors by keeping a journal or blog, drawing or painting pictures, or making a scrapbook. All of these activities are great ways to express difficult feelings.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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