A Parents’ Guide to Helping Your Child Through the Pains of Cancer

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Be Honest About What’s Happening

Though you don’t want to tell your child that a procedure will hurt, it’s important to be honest. Children need to feel that they can trust their parents and caregivers during this difficult time. Many procedures, such as venipunctures, bone marrow aspirates, biopsies, and lumbar punctures are painful. Chemotherapy treatments might also cause pain, even as they’re ultimately helping your child.

Explain what each treatment and procedure is ahead of time. Be honest when things might be painful and reassure your child that everything will be alright and you’ll help him work through anything that’s uncomfortable.

Stay Close and Comforting

Children typically do best when they have a trusted parent close at hand for cancer treatments and procedures. Accompany your child, hold his or her hand, and become his or her most trusted advocate. Ask for a private treatment room or other accommodations if you know they will help your child feel better. Speak up for your child when you know he or she is too nervous or afraid to voice questions, concerns, or wishes. Parents are powerful resources that can help doctors and nurses understand their young patients better.

Provide Distractions

Often, the best thing you can do to help your child with the pain from cancer is to provide a distraction. Bring a well-stocked bag with you for painful treatments or procedures. Bubbles, books, puppets, and toys can all offer something new for the child to engage with and distract from the pain. A tablet or smartphone loaded with movies and apps is another option.

Work with your child to find the distractions that work best. Brainstorm together at home, or browse through items online that might help. Keep some surprises on hand, and rotate some of your favorites so your distractions stay fresh and don’t get stale.

Establish Comfort Routines

The right routines can provide predictability and comfort in a painful world. If your child has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, make sure this cuddly item is always close by for difficult times. Explore other things that might help your child relax, such as soothing classical music or aromatherapy. Establishing a routine, such as a gentle back rub, a whiff of a favorite essential oil, or a gentle meditative song might help your child relax and drift off to sleep when having a particularly painful day.

With care and preparation, you can help your child make it through cancer treatment as comfortably as possible. Always keep the lines of communication open and work together with your child to find the best solutions for his or her individual needs.

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