3 Steps to Help Navigate the Effects of Childhood Cancer on Siblings

Family Spending Time Together To Help Navigate The Effects Of Childhood Cancer On Siblings

Cancer brings about significant changes to a family’s life and interpersonal relationship dynamic. As some families spend 40 hours a week on cancer care, it can be very hard for parents to focus on other things. Furthermore, it can be easy to fall into the mindset of believing the healthy siblings are “doing fine” and need to become more independent. However, this only creates a more distant relationship between parents and their healthy children which can further strain family dynamics. 

Family life and routine is interrupted during the course of cancer treatments. The once normal activities and developing relationships often come to a standstill or are forgotten. Additionally by the time a new rhythm is set, cancer patients and siblings alike can find past relationships or opportunities are no longer there. This is why creating a strong line of open communication is so critically important. Strong family bonds are able to help create a sense of stability and support throughout the cancer treatment process. According to Caner.Net, here are 3 ways to help recognize emotionally-provoked behaviors and how to help them (or yourself) establish a sense of stability.

Recognizing Emotionally-Driven Behaviors from Siblings 

Although each child is different due to their ages and levels of maturity, most children don’t know how to express their emotions through conversation. Instead, their feelings are often displayed within their actions such as:

  • Desire to spend more time with family members, this can either be a sign of increased separation anxiety or simply appreciating the time spent together with everyone
  • Showing strong relationship bonds or acting protective of their ill sibling
  • Constantly optimistic, trying to comfort or keep peace between family members
  • Acting more independent and trying to be more helpful with household chores
  • Wanting to spend more time by themselves or seeming withdrawn in family interactions
  • Seeking attention by misbehaving in school, throwing temper tantrums, increased crying or squabbling with siblings, acting younger or unable to do things without help, demanding attention or new toys
  • Inability to focus on homework or negative results in school performance
  • Stress-induced behaviors such as headaches, stomachaches, bedwetting, trouble sleeping, bad dreams 

Help Siblings Understand Their Emotions

Throughout diagnosis, treatments, and recovery, the roles and responsibility within the family is significantly impacted. During this time a sibling of an ill child can experience a myriad of emotions. Not only do they feel sadness, fear, and anxiety concerning their sick sibling, but also a range of emotions like guilt, jealousy, resentment and anger from the shift in parental attention. In addition, they may feel like they can’t or don’t deserve to express their feelings. This is yet another reason why an open line of communication between parents and children is vital. Check out these resources that are meant to help siblings understand their feelings and how to recognize the emotions your child can be experiencing.

How to Help Siblings Express Their Emotions in a Healthy Way

Cancer related traumatic stress can often disrupt how a sibling functions throughout their day-to-day life.  As children typically express their emotions through actions, they need to be shown how to alleviate or properly share their feelings. Here’s some thoughtful tips to help support your family members as they adjust to their new routine.

Keeping the Family Glued Together During Vulnerable Times

Increased understanding and awareness is needed to help support children’s personal development and academic needs. As parents learn how to communicate openly with their children, they can provide a family support system to build trust and a sense of belonging for all members during this vulnerable time.