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You may be having treatment as an outpatient, need short stays in hospital or be at home coping with side effects or symptoms. All of this can disrupt family life and make it difficult to have enough quality time with your children.
You may be worried that seeing you in hospital will be too stressful for your children, but being separated from you may cause them more anxiety. Ask your children if they’d like to visit you and go with what they want. At first it may be easier for them to see you in a visitor’s/day room or there may be a canteen/café you can take them to.
You’ll need to be aware of what your child may see in hospital, especially if there are very unwell people being cared for nearby. For younger children, keep visits fairly brief (up to 15 minutes) and remember that older children may want some time alone with you.
Here are some other ideas for how you can best prepare your children for a hospital visit:
Keeping in touch with your children while you’re in hospital is also important:
Here are some ideas for things you can do together when you don’t have a lot of energy but want to spend time with your children. You can:
After treatment your children may expect things to get back to normal and find it difficult to understand why that’s not always simple.
You’ll probably feel very tired and may still be coping with side effects|. It’s also not uncommon to feel anxious and isolated, and miss the support you had during treatment. This is normal and it takes time for everyone to adjust to life after treatment|.
It’s a good idea to prepare your children that it’s going to take time, possibly months, to get your energy back. Be positive about the things that you can do now that treatment is over. Tell them about new changes to family life and routines - for example, if you’ll be picking them up from school or if you won’t be going back to work for a few months.
Tell them that you’re still getting support from the hospital, from a support group or online. Get them involved in things you’re doing to help your recovery, such as:
Keep being open with your children. Let them know you’re still there to listen to them and that they can talk to you about their worries. They may be worrying about you staying well, and younger children will probably still be clingy. Explain that you’ll be going to the hospital for check-ups to make sure you’re well. They’ll need to know that you can still get everyday illnesses like colds, but that this doesn’t mean the cancer has come back.
Acknowledge that you’ve all been through something difficult together and how they’ve helped you to get better. This can be particularly important for teenagers. Things usually gradually get back to normal as everyday life takes over from the cancer.
Despite all the difficulties, cancer may bring some positive things to your family life. Being open and honest with your children can make you feel closer. You can feel proud of how your children have learned to cope when life doesn’t go to plan. They may be more responsible, independent and more sensitive to other people’s needs in the future.
Content last reviewed: 1 June 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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