Manage Anger When Your Child Has Cancer
Anger is a universal response to retinoblastoma, but this cancer is nobody’s fault.
There is no known cause of the genetic changes that spark eye cancer in children. Yet when the child suffers, we need someone or something to blame, especially as the dragon the child fights is unseen.
Though not deliberate, parents often unload pent up rage on medical staff, partners, themselves, friends and relatives, even their children.
Frayed tempers can be especially damaging in times of crisis, particularly when experienced by a child with cancer or their siblings. Recognize that you are more likely to have a short temper when you are under stress. Be proactive in reducing stress, and know how to manage your anger, as this will reduce the risk of negative outbursts.
If you have a disagreement with your child’s doctors, request an appointment to discuss your concerns. This will give you both time to prepare and to talk openly, rather than having a rushed, tense exchange in the hallway. Don’t be afraid to ask the doctor or nurse to explain things again.
Say “I” when expressing your concerns. For example: “I am confused because you don’t give me clear explanations” instead of “You never explain things to me.” People respond more positively when comments are not combative.
Don’t let your concerns fester. Discuss them early to prevent unnecessary confusion and distress. Take time to talk with your partner or your child’s doctors when you are both calm. The risk of conversations descending into a slanging match is high when either of you is very tense.
Connect With Other Families
Sharing experiences and knowing you are not alone can be a great stress reliever. Do all you can to be in touch with other families of children who have been diagnosed with retinoblastoma, and build relationships with them.
- Read other children’s stories
- Talk with parents in the waiting room
- Join an online retinoblastoma community
- Join or start a retinoblastoma / cancer support group
- See the Further Resources section for support organizations
Let Off Steam
Find constructive ways to diffuse your tension before it boils over into anger directed at yourself or others. A little exercise each day releases pent up negativity. Take a walk in the fresh air, or go for a run. Dig some weeds in the garden, hammer some nails into wood or rip up some paper.
Keeping a written or audio/video journal can also help you work through anger. Giving your feelings a voice in a safe environment often reduces their power over you. Crying can also be very cleansing.
When you are very stressed, breathing exercises can rapidly reduce anxiety and stress. Simply taking a deep in breath and slow, regular out breath helps calm the body and focus the mind. Practice this easy technique when you are already calm, to support you in moments of crisis.
Soft music with a gentle rhythm is also a very powerful way to relax the body and mind. Research has shown that with repeated regular exposure to music, the heart can reset itself to beat in time with the tempo.
if controlling your temper becomes a challenge, seek professional help. You may benefit from counseling or an anger management program.
Anger is a natural and expected response to your child’s cancer, and there is no shame in asking for help to manage this very intense emotion.