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When The Big C Hits Small Fry (Part 4) - Coping strategies

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Coping strategies

The ordeal of being diagnosed with cancer and the intensity of the treatment are overwhelming to the child and family. It is difficult to maintain a sense of normality for the child, what with frequent hospitalization and treatments. Help with the treatment always be available to listen to what’s bothering him about chemo or surgery. Quite often the child is misinformed and may not fully understand what’s going to happen. Give accurate answers with lots of reassurance. Allow an older child to ask the doctor questions in your presence.

Remember your child is angry. Sometimes there are no right attitudes. Says Kanta, whose teenager has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: “When I sympathize and coddle, she explodes, ‘Stop being so sweet to me!’ If I make light of, say, her lack of hair she mutters. “It’s not your hair that’s gone missing.” 

Before treatment or hospitalization, the child’s heart races, the palms are sweating. Deep breathing and relaxation, a football match, a romp in the park helps.

“I feel I’m going to throw up,” says Adip, even before the chemo. His mother distracts him by classical conditioning — playing word games as they go to the hospital.

Description: Description: Deep breathing and relaxation, a football match, a romp in the park helps.

Deep breathing and relaxation, a football match, a romp in the park helps.

Thought stopping, i.e. erasing stressful thoughts, is another trick. Your child has to tell his mind Okoy, stop. Turn it off. Think about something else. As he tries again and again, he gets better at it.

When the child asks questions about death, emphasize the positive with statistics about survival. She may know intuitively that she is very sick, specially, when she compares herself to other kids that she meets in pediatric care.

Keep ‘em busy Loss of school can create real problems — back sliding on academic work, loss of contact with friends, which can have devastating effects. Talking to the teachers can help ease the way. Role play about how he can answer friends about his absenteeism.

Before Mark went back to school with a bald pate, the teacher explained to the children what had happened, so that they would be more compassionate to him.

Although you have lower academic expectation, it’s important to maintain the challenge and encouragement to help her achieve.

Encourage playing with other kids, without being over protective.

Crafts can stimulate the mind. There is the inspiring story of leukemia child victims who made 1000 origami cranes of every kind of paper possible and lining them in rows in the cancer ward. Prateek’s mother encouraged him to paint and sold the paintings so that she could buy goodies for under privileged patients.

Description: Description: Encourage playing with other kids, without being over protective.

Encourage playing with other kids, without being over protective.

Prepare to multitask Cancer affects the entire family. You need to continue to work, be attentive to siblings, besides caring for the child with cancer, who can become clinging.

You may become closer as a couple as you work together, or your relationship maybe stressed as you struggle to pay for treatments, while feelings of guilt, resentment and anger surface.

Your other children can feel neglected. Younger kids may feel guilty and responsible for the illness. Older kids may misbehave and fare badly in school. Aroop resents not going on holidays. Gina battles for more pocket money. Sahil shouts:” l wish that I had cancer.”

Description: Description: You need to continue to work, be attentive to siblings, besides caring for the child with cancer, who can become clinging.

You need to continue to work, be attentive to siblings, besides caring for the child with cancer, who can become clinging.

A Minesotta study on coping and stress found that families that manage to keep a tight schedule of treatment and maintain a satisfactory home life usually do so because they have adopted an outlook such as “it’s made us a stronger family” and “it’s taught our kids responsibility and how much we mean to one another.” 

The most important buffer against stress is social support – turning to friends and family, support groups and counselors for help.

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