Before cancer, you may have been involved with your child’s after-school activities, coaching teams, cheering at math competitions and offering your time. Your treatment and side effects, however, may make it more difficult to maintain the same level of volunteerism. If you’re seeking parent-involvement ideas to stay connected to your child’s extracurricular life, you’re already taking the steps you need to retain that important role in your life. With a few adaptations and some patience, you can find ways to stay involved in your child’s interests.
Take an Inventory
First things first — find out what you’re currently doing when it comes to after-school involvement. Jot down a list of what you volunteer for and how often. Seeing your obligations listed out can assist you in paring down your responsibilities. During your cancer treatment, your health is the most important thing. You simply can’t maintain the same volunteerism schedule as you did before chemo and procedures started. The extra socialization means extra germs that could tax your weak immune system, and side effects like nausea can keep you on the couch for longer than your before-cancer days. Rank your commitments by how important they are so you know which ones you can let go of. This can also offer some clarity about which activities are a priority and which are supplementary. If you have more than one child, consider having only one volunteer role per child.
Talk to your child’s coach or after-school coordinator to let them know about your diagnosis and that you need to slow down your schedule in order to give your body its best shot at feeling good. If possible, offer to transition the role to another parent so that nothing falls through the cracks and the kids don’t notice the difference. Don’t be afraid to ask other parents or friends for some help — if you aren’t feeling well or need an extra hand, tell someone. Other parents should be happy to arrange a carpool schedule for shuffling the kids from school to activities, and they may even offer to host your children for a few hours after school every once in a while.
Try Couch Volunteering
Volunteering doesn’t have to require traveling to practices or being at recitals all day. Indeed, you can find ways to volunteer and make a huge difference right from the comfort of your couch. Ask if the dance teacher needs help making hair bows or whether the science teacher needs some assistance coming up with fun activities. You can make phone calls, be in charge of parent emails or even plan curriculum while still getting your rest at home. You may be surprised at how much your new volunteer role positively affects the adults and children involved with the club.
Give Yourself Time
Most importantly, don’t hold yourself to the same standard of commitment that you did before your diagnosis. Remind yourself that while you’re not as active as you once were, you’re giving your body the recovery time it needs to heal. In the mean time, find other ways to connect with your child. Parent-involvement ideas can mean looking at photos from their swim meet or reviewing a video of their karate practice while snuggling on the couch.
Parenthood is a vulnerable place, and parenting through cancer treatments is a whole other ballgame. With large heaps of grace and a bit of extra help, your child will be well taken care of during their activities.
Visit the UVA Cancer Center for more information on talking to your kids about cancer.Learn More