Parenting a child with leukemia

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Learn about ways you can manage the stress of parenting your child with leukemia.

Key points

  • Ways to cope with parenting a child with leukemia include being knowledgeable about their disease, maintaining a positive attitude, setting a routine, being patient, accepting help, taking care of yourself, and finding a balance between overprotecting and overindulging.

Your child’s treatment can affect the entire family. Numerous visits to the hospital and concerns about your child’s health may cause you to feel more anxious and fatigued.

The combination of sadness, guilt, and anger that your child feels may build up as treatment continues. Your family dynamic may change after your child is diagnosed.

Be familiar with your child’s treatment plan

Learning about leukemia can help you feel more confident about caring for your child. It is encouraged to take notes at meetings with your child’s treatment team. Do not hesitate to talk to anyone on your child’s health care team if anything is unclear. There are also helpful resources on leukemia that can help clarify any questions you may have. Accurate knowledge will help you adapt to your child’s illness and provide the support your child needs.

Keep a positive attitude

It is normal for there to be ups and downs throughout your child’s treatment. You can encourage your child to focus on the good things that are happening while acknowledging the down times. Being hopeful about your child’s illness can help provide emotional security for yourself, your child, and the rest of the family.

Set a routine

Routine gives us structure and can help maintain a sense of control. You and your family should talk about how you will continue your life while your child is getting treatment or has returned from the hospital.

Be flexible and patient

Take things one day at a time. There is no way to predict how your child will cope with their treatment. Being flexible and patient throughout your child’s treatment can help you through the ups and downs.

Accept help

Caring for your sick child, while managing the usual household and work tasks, may be more than you can handle. Invite and accept help from others, such as extended family members and friends. A strong support network can help free your time so you can focus on caring for your child.

Find a balance between overprotecting and overindulging your child

You may have mixed emotions while taking care of your child with leukemia. On one hand, you may find a strong desire to protect your child. However, overprotecting, overindulging, or "helicopter parenting" can restrict their freedom and development.

Try to find a balance between setting too many restrictions and overindulging. Let your child “be a kid” while remembering that some discipline is necessary.

Take care of yourself

Find someone you can talk to who is a good listener. You may find friends or a small circle of friends very helpful. Or you might take comfort in the families of other leukemia patients. Talking to your nurse, social worker, or with clergy may also help. You may go by yourself, with your spouse, or with your family. Take time to care for yourself.

You and your spouse

If you have a partner, you may find that you take on separate roles. For example, one person may quit their job to care for your child, while the other provides the income. The separate roles that you and your partner adopt may make it difficult for you to support each other. Social workers can help you seek ways to obtain other financial support as well.

Here are some ways you and your partner can help each other cope with your child’s leukemia:

  • Understand that each parent copes differently.
  • Appreciate that each parent’s role is equally important.
  • Learn about your child’s leukemia together.
  • Continue to share in caring and loving your other children.
  • Express your own feelings of sadness, anger, and hope with each other.

For single parents

As a single parent, parenting your child with leukemia may prove especially challenging. This is why seeking help from a trusted friend or relative is essential. Invite and accept help from others, such as extended family members and friends. Talk to your child's health care team for support.

For divorced parents

Maintaining communication between you and your ex-spouse will help both of you give the best care for your child. Keep a common journal to log what happens while you are in the hospital regarding your child’s care. This way, you are both kept up to date on the progress of your child’s treatment and can avoid any problems with miscommunication.

Last updated: March 6th 2018