How to Keep Normal Family Routines Going When You Have Cancer
Cancer and cancer treatment inevitably mean some disruptions and changes to your family’s routines. Keeping things as ‘normal’ as possible gives your children a sense of security and support in the midst of all the chaos and change.
Keep things as normal as possible
Continue with your normal routines as much as possible. Tell your child it’s okay to go about their life as usual - to see their friends, play sport, do after-school activities and have fun. Some young people feel guilty about having fun when their parent is sick. Keeping up their sport or hobbies or time with friends means they have some ‘time out’ away from the cancer.
Tell your children how their day-to-day routines are going to be affected. Children, especially younger ones, like routine and it helps them feel secure. So prepare them for any changes in advance and involve them as much as you can – for example, choosing which of two friends they would prefer to go to their swimming lessons with. Make sure they know:
- who will be looking after them if you’re not at home and that they will never be alone
- how long will you be away from home
- who will pick them up from school or take them to their sport training or music lesson
- any other changes to their usual routine.
Sometimes plans change suddenly, so also help your child to understand that sometimes they will need to go with the flow.
If your child is an adolescent or young adult, many aspects of their normal life and development may be changed, or even missed altogether. As well as less of your time and attention, they may have less time to spend on their interests or with people outside the family due to increased responsibilities such as household chores or looking after younger siblings. Encourage and help them to keep up their social life and activities they enjoy.
How to maintain normal routines
Keeping family life as normal and stable as possible reduces the amount of change your child has to cope with. Some tips for trying to maintain ‘normal’:
- Ensure that your child continues going to school (or continues their tertiary education or work)
- Accept or ask for help from others so your child can continue after-school or weekend activities like sport or music.
If there are just too many activities to juggle talk to your child about putting one on hold for a while, but try to keep up most of their normal schedule so they get ‘time out’ from thinking about your cancer.
- Preserve family time
If you can, try to set aside time for the whole family as well as for each of your children.
- Maintain normal family rules.
Key things to remember
Keeping routines as normal as possible doesn’t mean pushing yourself to make sure nothing changes. Often parents feel guilty about the impact of their cancer on their children and push themselves to keep doing everything. But there may be times you just can’t.
Your family will adjust to any changes to routines – it may just take a little time and lots of opportunities for open and clear communication.