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By Mariah Dantzler, MS

It is important to understand that it may be inconvenient or nearly impossible to keep a routine while a family member is undergoing cancer treatment. But we know that rhythm and routine create feelings of safety and security. The following tips may help your efforts to create a routine within your family during this time.

When a child is first diagnosed with cancer, the parents’ focus is inevitably on getting their child the care and treatment they need. This focus continues through treatment and can last months or even years. Parents also do everything they can to ensure the rest of the family is cared for. However, due to doctor’s visits, hospital stays, and inevitable emergencies, things that had been normal in family life may fall to the wayside as the child in treatment needs to take priority. In order to acknowledge the shift in priorities while protecting the rhythm of the family, consider the following:


    • Identify 3-5 lifelines. Lifelines can be close friends, family, or members within your community who will rally around you and take on any task thrown their way. These are people who will help with transportation needs, laundry, lawn care, or whatever needs to be done.


    • Create a family mission statement, crest, or logo. You can often refer to this with your family in times of stress or hurt to bond together.


    • Try to keep siblings on their schedules as much as possible. For instance, keep them on their sports teams, in their favorite activities, and allow them to continue to have play dates. Rely on your lifelines to work out logistics.


    • Dedicate a time each month to have uninterrupted family fun time.


    • Keep bedtimes the same.


    • Make a chart of things that may change during this time, also noting what will still stay the same. This allows children to anticipate and prepare for inevitable change – but still feel confident they can rely on some things to remain the same.


    • Try to honor choices and individual preferences for children in the family in the areas they can control. Allowing them to choose such things as the clothes they wear, the snack they eat, or the television show they watch increases their feelings of having some healthy control of their lives.


    • Play with your children whenever you can. Younger children rarely discuss their problems openly, but they tend to show you how they are feeling through play and activity.


    • Encourage your kids to still have fun when they can. They need to know it is still okay to experience joy even during this challenging situation.


Coping with cancer is never an easy task, especially when a child is the one who is suffering. Just remember, your whole family is in this together, and all of your children need your attention more than anything else. Cleaning and laundry can wait! Love on them, spend time with them, and give all of them hugs just because.


Mariah Dantzler, MS is an Associate Professional Counselor who works with children and their families at the Summit Counseling Center, located in Johns Creek, Georgia.