Children learn from what they live, experience and observe in the world around them.
How you respond to your child’s cancer and treatment impacts how all your children cope with the experience.
Parents are a child’s primary teachers. How you respond to your child’s cancer and treatment impacts how all your children cope. Familiarity nourishes development. Consistent love, honesty and fairness are vital in times of crisis like this.
Avoiding the Subject
You will likely feel a strong need to protect your child with retinoblastoma and her siblings by keeping information from them. However, children are very sensitive to mood and behaviour, and frequently overhear private conversations.
If you do not talk with your children about the cancer, what is happening and what will happen, they will feel lonely, confused and scared as they try to piece things together. They may feel unable to talk with you about their own feelings. The scenarios their imaginations construct are likely to be far worse than reality.
Talk with and listen to your children. Answer them truthfully, and remember it’s better to say “I don’t know” than give incorrect information. Now more than ever, they need to be able to trust you.
Indulging Your Child with Cancer
Many parents feel deep guilt about the trauma cancer forces upon their child. They lavish gifts on the child in the belief it will make the child happier and diminish their own negative emotions. However, Presents that help children and parents most cannot be found in a box. Plenty of love, cuddles, conversation and reassurance are your greatest gifts.
Normal expectations of behaviour or household responsibilities are often altered by retinoblastoma. Naturally, there are times when it is unreasonable to ask a sick child to do things, or to punish a behaviour borne from stress. Judging what is appropriate can be very difficult.
Your child needs opportunity and guidance to develop life skills essential for growth as a socially responsible person. Maintain as much normality as possible by disciplining as you would if your child did not have cancer or low vision.
Adjust your expectations in response to treatment and its effects, but don’t accept bad behaviour simply because your child has cancer. Use appropriate tools of discipline, such as timeout and loss of privileges, to reinforce your family rules for all children.
Try not to constantly mollycoddle, but encourage your child to achieve age appropriate developmental goals. In so doing, you help your child to flourish and blossom into an independent, well adjusted young adult.
Overprotecting Your Child
Fear of accident and risk to remaining sight is common among parents of children with retinoblastoma. Sadly, this often restricts opportunity, fueling the child’s belief that they are different, inferior or incapable.
Children need freedom to be children. Children with reduced vision especially must establish their capabilities and learn that low or no vision does not have to set them apart from sighted peers.
Take sensible precautions such as insisting that sports goggles be worn during games that risk eye injury, but don’t resist your child’s enthusiasm to participate in activities. Do not create limitations beyond doctors’ restrictions, but allow your child to enjoy and achieve.
Try also to avoid repeatedly directing your child to be careful during play, especially in front of friends. This will only draw attention to disability and difference. Instead, talk to all your children about playing safely and protecting their eyes. Teaching safety awareness to all children is important, and this will prevent your child with cancer from feeling singled out as different,