Discipline for Children Affected By Cancer
Childhood cancer and the battle to overcome it often mutilates family life beyond recognition.
Thoughtful, consistent authority can be very difficult in a home challenged by fractured routines, great uncertainty and potent stress.
Yet even in the middle of the storm, you can do much to maintain a cohesive, compassionate approach to discipline for your child with cancer, and for brothers and sisters.
Assess Your Approach and Expectations
Remember that children learn behaviours from their parents. Young children especially learn by copying the people around them.
- How do you cope with stress?
- Does this set a good example to your children?
- Do you have a quick temper or patience?
- Are you aggressive or gentle?
If you respond to stress by screaming, swearing and throwing things, your children will learn to do the same. If you are respectful, patient and calm, your child will learn respect, patience and calm. If you walk away from confrontation, your children will learn to do this too.
Consider your approach to discipline and how it is affected by your emotional response to your child’s diagnosis, current stage of treatment and prognosis.
- Are you treating your children as though your child with cancer is dying or living?
- What are your expectations for behaviour?
- Are you letting your children get away with more because you feel guilty?
- Are you raising your expectations in attempts to reduce your stress?
Have realistic expectations of your children. If you expect your sick two-year-old to behave like a healthy toddler, or your stressed four-year-old to behave like a regular preschooler, you will be setting them up for failure and increased stress.
Decide how you will approach discipline of all your children, especially your child who has cancer, and be consistent in applying it with each child.
If your children’s behaviour is causing you concern, ask for help from a child life specialist or psychologist. Some children do struggle significantly to cope with stress and may need professional help to support them.