Children Living With Retinoblastoma
Children with eye cancer and their siblings can be quickly overwhelmed by intense emotions.
They have less experience and fewer coping skills than adults, and need extra support to navigate traumatic experience.
The affected child, brothers and sisters experience similar emotions to parents. During the course of the cancer journey, they may feel anger, sadness, fear, guilt or jealousy, and great concern for one another and their parents.
Your child with cancer may feel violated and betrayed by procedures and therapy. Enucleation and chemotherapy can amplify distress as the body is changed by loss of an eye or hair.
Siblings often experience very strong emotions. They may feel abandoned as all attention is focused on their brother or sister who has cancer.
If children do not have safe, effective ways of coping, strong emotions bubble over into difficult behaviours. They can also be suppressed, causing depression, even in very young children.
Good communication and compassionate discipline are essential in supporting children under stress. Regular conversation and play helps identify difficult feelings and develop coping skills. Discipline sets boundaries and helps children grow beyond their experience of cancer to be happy, responsible people.
You are your children’s teacher. How you respond to the cancer impacts how they cope. Consistent love, honesty and fairness are essential.
Brothers and sisters are often forgotten victims, unintended casualties of the war against the unseen monster threatening their family.
Difficult behaviours sometimes occur as a result of the enormous stress siblings feel, but there is much you can do to help them.
Talking with and listening to your children – both your child who has cancer and unaffected siblings – Is vital during treatment and beyond.
Children need compassion and understanding, and someone to teach them healthy ways to cope with their very strong emotions.
Tantrums are normal behaviour for young children under stress. They should be expected and understood, but try to avoid them by diffusing stress early.
Children thrive in an environment with structure and routine. You can do much to maintain constructive discipline, even through the crisis of cancer.