Coping With Emotions

Separation Anxiety in Parents and Kids when Cancer Treatment Requires Travel: Tips for Staying Connected

The reality of spending time apart while you undergo cancer treatment in the hospital can lead to separation anxiety in parents and kids alike, but there are ways to maintain a connection with your children while you're in the hospital.

The reality of spending time apart while you undergo cancer treatment in the hospital can lead to separation anxiety in parents and kids alike. It can be difficult to talk to your kids about cancer even when you’re able to spend quality time together. The distance adds to the feelings of distress and the complicated logistics. However, there are ways to maintain a connection with your children, help them feel grounded, and a part of your healing process.

Take Advantage of Technology

Technologic advances make keeping in touch easier than ever before. Video conferencing services allow families to “virtually” connect. This can help children feel more at ease because they can see their parent. Connecting by video doesn’t need to be limited to conversations. Kids can sing, display their artwork, and show off their new dance moves. Parents can read bedtime stories over the remote connection. You could even have a family dinner together!

Share Your Worlds

Text messaging allows parents and kids to send photos and messages and doesn’t require any scheduling. Even young children enjoy sending stickers and emojis by text message.

The old standby, email, is also a wonderful way to keep in touch. You can go into more detail about your treatments and how they will help your body (adjusted to meet your child’s temperament and development level). Send pictures of your room, the nurses (if they’re willing), any flowers or balloons delivered, and even your X-rays to help the kids be a part of your hospital experience. Someday, these emails between you and your children might be something you look back on and cherish.

On the phone, let them talk about their day, their school, their friends, and what’s going through their heads more than you talk about the hospital. As much as they want to know what’s going on with you, whatever is going through their head is more interesting to them. Some kids may not be very talkative so the specifics of the pictures they drew and stories they wrote can help fuel the conversation.

Play and Learn Together

Games are a great way to connect remotely and alleviate separation anxiety in parents and kids. Challenge your child to a game of Words with Friends or you can become neighbors in games like FarmVille, sending game gifts and helping out on each other’s farms.

For older kids, consider a parent/child book club. You can select a book to read together and compare notes at the end of each chapter. Criticism and analysis can happen by phone or over email. It could even be a book they have to read for school. This is a great way to interact with teens and preteens, and it can give you some common ground for fueling conversation.

It is difficult to be away from your kids for an extended period especially in a situation as stressful as cancer treatment. This time can be used to build communication skills and traditions between you that may even continue after you return home. Build memories together through these conversations, even though you’re apart.

Have you experienced cancer treatment while parenting young children? What worked for you? You can share your story here.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley