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The Importance of Family Unity When a Child is Diagnosed With a Terminal Illness


Caring for a terminally ill child is an overwhelming and stressful situation for the child as well as their families. Children are very observant little fellows, they are able to pick up on the stress often associated with the family members and more often than not the outside stress level will cause the child to have difficulties in coping.

It is never easy to deal with an illness that could be life threatening but there are small solutions to somewhat help with the everyday struggle and coping. It is important to be completely honest with the child and provide them with truthful information. It will depend on the age of the child as to how the information is passed, but a child of any age will ask questions and as difficult as it may be they should be given answers. It is sometimes beneficial for older children to explore the diagnosis as a family by researching the internet or reading books regarding the illness.

A terminally ill child should not be isolated from siblings and/or friends. A sibling will want to be included in the doctor visits or results from a previous visit. If the ill child is hospitalized it is very important to allow siblings visitation if the hospital permits it. Children of all ages will often confide in siblings so it is important to give the siblings their alone time with their brother or sister whom is ill. When siblings are not informed about current situations, they will at some point hear it from an outside source which can make the situation scarier to them. Siblings are more resilient than many parents give them credit for when it comes to helping their brother or sister through a painful test so it is important for the ill child to have all family members involved with their diagnosis.

A child dealing with a terminal illness should never be made promises that cannot be kept. As hard as it is to look in the eyes of a sick child and tell them “I don’t know”, it is much easier on the child to know the truth than be let down due to an un-kept promise. Offer the child hope at the possibility of a cure instead of a guaranteeing that a cure will be found.

Values are crucial parts of maintaining family beliefs during this time of sadness, stress and overwhelming fear. Throughout the course of the illness remember to include the family’s spiritual and religious beliefs as it will help the ill child as well as the siblings to continue the importance of understanding family values. If the family normally prays on a daily basis, encourage siblings to continue with the routine even during times when they are alone. Routines are important for maintaining the stability so avoid breaking normal routines unless absolutely necessary.

Make play dates or other forms of special time with the other children individually. When an ill child is in and out of the hospital on a regular basis it sometimes becomes difficult to spend time with the other children and they may begin to feel left out or alone. The other children need to feel as though they are missed and loved even when the parents are not with them. If there is a need to be at the hospital for days at a time it may be difficult to find a lengthy amount of time for the other children, but simple things such as making arrangements for siblings to join you for lunch at the cafeteria will ease their fears. Doing little things such as calling to give a brief bedtime story will make a difference for the children at home.

One of the most special and memorable things a family can do is to take pictures and lots of them. Any funny or special moment will bring a large ray of light when it can be visually remember through a photo. These suggestions are by no means all that can be done for helping children deal with a terminal illness but, they will help with comforting the ill child and their siblings through the feeling of family unity.

Source by Deirdre Baker

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