If you're finding it hard to talk to your child, let your hospital Social Worker or Play Specialist know. They have resources that can help.

How to manage your child's behaviour A cancer diagnosis will have a huge impact on your child. Fear and feelings of anxiety may cause him or her to become more needy and dependent, argumentative and difficult. The medications your child receives can also affect behaviour causing irritability, outbursts of anger and tears. Such unpredictability can make it hard for you to know what to expect.

The entire routine changes for you and your child with lengthy stays in hospital and attending appointments. The treatments can make your child feel unwell for some time and then there are the physical side effects to manage, in particular, changes in their appearance (hair loss) which can affect confidence and self image (especially in older children). The emotional aspect of a diagnosis can make discipline difficult. You may feel helpless and guilty. Watching a child go through treatment can be hard and so it is natural to want to make the child the centre of attention, offering treats and special privileges but too much can have consequences for your child and family.

Children need guidance and structure from their parents, even when they are unwell. The rest of the family may feel neglected and maintaining routines, structure and boundaries within the family can be a challenge, especially if your child requires lengthy treatment and long stays in hospital.

During treatment, your child will be given gifts and extra attention from you and from visitors. When treatment is finished, there may be an expectation that this will continue. Issues with discipline can arise when the special attention ends and normal life resumes.

Here are some tips that may help:

  • as parents and partners, find time to talk to each other about the effect your child's illness is having on you and the rest of the family 
  • try spending most of your hospital visiting time during the day and go home in the evenings to be with family (if possible)
  • set behavioural limits, make these clear to your child and stick to them
  • if treatment is lengthy, work out a strategy to care for your child and ensure other family members are not neglected
  • adjust expectations to how your child feels physically on any given day
  • reward good behaviour with praise
  • make it clear to your child that misbehaving will have a consequence, This could be time out or temporary revoking of privileges and ensure that the consequence is realistic, something that you can enforce and carry out
  • seek help from your medical team. They have helpful resources on hand and can suggest parent support services which could be helpful 
  • If you are having a difficult time managing your child's behaviour or feel there is something else going on (for example, you observe dramatic changes in your child's personality and behaviour or your child will not respond to the boundaries and limits you have set), then seek help from :
  • supportive family and friends
  • your child's care team
  • Kenzie's Gift