Your child is about to complete treatment. This means that you, your child, and the rest of your family will need to adjust to life at home. Making the transition from treatment to follow up at home can be a welcome change, but it can also be stressful.
This handout lists some things you can do after treatment to help your child live as normally as possible. These tips can also help your family and friends with the transition from treatment.
How can I help my child?
Children of all ages can be anxious when treatment ends, but they might have trouble showing or telling you how they feel. Here are some tips for helping children of different ages.
How to help your baby (0–12 months)
Babies who are getting treatment might have fewer chances than usual to explore the world around them and reach developmental milestones. After treatment, your baby will likely begin to develop more quickly.
Building trust with parents and caregivers is an important part of a baby’s development. That’s because it helps the baby separate from them without getting too upset. After treatment, your baby might separate from you easily at home or in other familiar places, but he might cling to you during clinic visits or in new places. You can:
- Offer “comfort positions” throughout visits (see Do You Know… Comfort Positions), and
- Use the same caregivers when possible.
How to help your toddler (13–36 months)
Many toddlers might act more like babies during treatment. For example, potty training might be slow; separating from parents and caregivers might be a challenge; and temper tantrums might increase. Help your toddler adjust to life at home by being consistent and by setting limits. You can:
- Give your toddler choices when possible to help him learn to be more independent, and
- Allow him to play and express emotions in helpful ways.
How to help your preschooler (age 3–5)
Preschoolers need consistent limits at home. Your preschooler might have gotten extra attention, or toys and other presents during treatment. If this kind of attention goes away after treatment, your preschooler may feel like he is being punished. It will take time for him to adjust to being a typical kid. You can:
- Offer more chances for free play and art activities to help your child express emotions, and
- Answer questions as honestly as possible in words your child can understand.
How to help your school-age child (age 6–9) or pre-teen (age 10–12)
Talk to your Child Life specialist or your child’s St. Jude teacher about a school re-entry program if your child has been out of school for a long time. A re-entry program can help your child’s teachers and fellow students learn about your child’s diagnosis, treatment, and the effects of illness and treatment. Having well informed teachers and friends can help your child get back on track at school.
School-age children might ask why treatment ended and what will happen in the future. You can:
- Be honest and answer questions as completely as you can, and
- Give your child’s classmates safe and appropriate ways to spend time with your child.
How to help your teen (age 13–19) or young adult
Challenges for teens and young adults include going back to their friends, classmates, and coworkers; rejoining clubs and teams; making college choices; and developing a career. Cancer treatment can affect all these life events. While many teens try to put treatment behind them and not look back, this can actually cause more problems. You can:
- Help your teen or young adult understand that ending treatment does not end his need for health care,
- Share information with peers and coaches while respecting your child’s privacy, and
- Remind your teen or young adult that getting back to normal life takes time.
Can my child’s St. Jude team help with the transition?
Yes. We understand that you and your child might feel lost without your St. Jude treatment family. It can help to talk to the team about your child’s transition from treatment. You might want to talk about the following concerns:
- Your child’s follow-up plan and the long-term effects of treatment
- The emotional effects of treatment on a child, siblings, and parents
- Your child’s future plans for school
- How to meet the needs of your child’s siblings
How can I help my child’s siblings?
It is common for parents to focus on the sick child during treatment. Your child’s brothers and sisters might need help coping with feelings and adjusting to having their sibling back home. Here are some things you can do:
- Try to set similar expectations for all your children, such as taking part in family activities, doing chores, respecting rules, and sharing the attention.
- Spend time or do something special with one (1) child at a time.
What if my family has trouble adjusting?
If you or any of your children have trouble adjusting to life at home, you can talk to friends, teachers, or a counselor. Counselors can sometimes help kids express feelings they might not share with a parent. Ask your child’s doctor or school about counselors in your area. Camps and support groups give kids with similar health backgrounds a chance to have fun together and talk about their experiences.
What if I need help, too?
We know your child’s St. Jude team supported you during treatment, and you might miss that support when you go home. The end of your child’s treatment can also stir up many different emotions for parents. New sources of support can help you cope.
Your St. Jude team can help you look for support at home, such as family and friends, counselors, clergy, and your children’s school. Tell us about your concerns as your child gets ready to leave treatment, so we can help you start looking for support in your home community.
If you have questions about your child’s transition from treatment, talk to your health care team.
This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.
St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
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