Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With Treatment

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Should the child visit the hospital or clinic?

Generally it’s a good idea to take your child to the office or clinic at some point. This may not always be allowed—especially for children under 13—so, plan this kind of visit in advance. Talk with your nurse or social worker, who might be able to schedule extra time to spend with your child to explain what they see and answer any questions. Having your child see where you go and what happens there helps clear up the mystery.

Most treatment takes place in the outpatient setting and children may feel reassured when they see what treatment is really like and that their parent gets through it without problems. Try to schedule your child’s visit on a day when you are able to predict the outcome of the visit. For example, if you routinely feel ill from chemotherapy, it would be best to save a child’s visit for a regular doctor check-up visit instead.

Visits to a hospital unit may scare children more since people are often sicker when they are in the hospital. Again, there may be age restrictions, so find out the hospital policy before making this offer to your kids. It’s best to plan this type of visit when the parent feels up to it and can talk and laugh with the child in a normal way. And, you might want to plan an activity for the child and parent to do together so that the child sees the visit as a happy one. It’s helpful to have a nurse there to explain the strange-looking equipment or any procedures. All staff can help children feel safe and confident about the people who provide most of their parent’s care.

Last Medical Review: 08/07/2012
Last Revised: 08/07/2012