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When we look at the impact that cancer has on a family, we find that all members are affected. As the family adjusts to support the child diagnosed with cancer, siblings may feel fear, anger, anxiety, loneliness, jealousy, and guilt as their family routines and schedules change and as parents are required to spend more time and effort with the child who is undergoing cancer treatment. Though siblings may cognitively understand that their sibling requires time and attention from parents, they may still grapple with feeling left out and unsure of how to adjust to changing family dynamics. Using play-based and expressive arts therapy techniques meets children where they are developmentally. Play is the language of children, and toys are their words. A therapy room stocked with a carefully curated selection of toys and art materials offers a safe ground for exploring and understanding changes in a family system due to a sibling’s diagnosis of cancer. Play and expressive arts with the grounding presence of a trained therapist provide children with a rich and natural way to express themselves, build emotional regulation, figure out which coping skills are and are not effective for them, and identify and manage sources of anxiety and strain. Therapy can help children build resilience and thrive, and working with a therapist can offer an additional source of support to parents as they address the needs of all of their children.

Mary-Beth Archer is a licensed master social worker who provides play-based and expressive arts therapy at Art It Out.
She is passionate about connecting with children and adolescents through developmentally appropriate play-based techniques. Her goal is to honor the individuality of each child and to help them develop the resilience they need to thrive. She has worked as an international children and families social worker and as a children’s trauma therapist. She has four children of her own and deeply understands the joys and challenges of parenting. Mary-Beth has additional training in Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Grief Counseling, and Sand Tray Expressive Arts.

Watch Mary-Beth discuss an art project you can do at home with your child.

CURE Childhood Cancer recognizes the impact that a childhood cancer diagnosis can have on the whole family. CURE’s Counseling Program helps address the unique psychological needs of families affected by childhood cancer. CURE’s family-centered approach to addressing these unique experiences includes partnering with a network of licensed community-based therapists to offer counseling sessions to CURE families.

For more information about CURE’s counseling program, contact Chelsea Key at [email protected], or learn more through the button below.