Sharing experiences, good and bad

Time with your children can be precious. It is difficult to enjoy quality time with them when you are feeling the effects of cancer or its treatments. Some of these suggestions may help.

Being together

If you need to, think of things to do together that do not require much energy – read, watch TV together, or write a story about your family/whānau and share it with them. Have play dough and other creative materials to use to work out some frustrations that you and the children share. Plan for laughter, such as watching a funny DVD together. Laughter is good medicine for all of you.

Here are some additional activities that you may want to try.

In hospital

If you are in hospital, children can:

  • visit in the room, or day room. Ask the ward staff about any other facilities, for example, use of the cafe or outdoor areas.
  • stay in touch with phone calls, emails, texts or little notes sent back and forth.
  • share recorded messages.
  • exchange pictures or photographs.
  • exchange presents. You can pack small gifts to give children when they visit you; select things that they can do on their own or with you whilst they are visiting.
  • Children may be interested in all the mechanics of a hospital. Explain how the bed works, the call button, and all the different people who are there to help you.
  • Explain procedures if your child shows interest or concern.

Remind children that all of the tubes, bells and whistles have a purpose. Children may be overwhelmed by them. Tell your children beforehand that it is okay to get up on the bed, and give you a gentle cuddle.

At home

  • Even a small child can be involved in bringing meals, or the paper or books to read. Do as much as you can yourself so children don’t begin to resent running your errands. Allow for them to have enough free time for themselves.
  • Read a book together about the body. You could point out where your cancer is and what is happening to you.
  • Role play with younger children. Act out what is happening to you by using a doll. Try not to use any special dolls or animals that they use as a comfort toy unless they request it. Use other dolls for other members of your family/whānau. Children often express what they are really feeling in their play. Listen.
  • Share meaningful stories and songs with your children.
  • Make up positive messages to help all of you. Make posters, mobiles or badges using the positive message for inspiration.
  • Teenagers may find some websites helpful (see the website list at the end of this booklet).

Benefits of sharing

You may be spending more time with your children and actually feel closer to them. Sharing emotions can really strengthen the bond between parents or caregivers and children.

Children can grow in their ability to face other difficult experiences in life. They can grow in independence and self-confidence. They may become more responsible. They may become more sensitive to the needs of others and more able to understand and love another person.

Cancer can bring out the best in people. You can take pride in their ability to deal with problems and find new solutions. Your whole family/whānau may discover reserves of love and inner strength that will enhance the rest of your life together.

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