They need social support the most
In childhood cancers, it is very important to combat the psychological problems encountered as well as the treatment of the disease. Stating that this period is a long and tiring journey for families, experts pointed out the importance of intra-family communication and said, “Never blame yourself. Protect your child, but do not prevent him from socializing” advises.
February 15 is celebrated as World Childhood Cancer Day all over the world in order to draw the attention of the world public to the phenomenon of cancer in children, to raise awareness about rapidly increasing childhood leukemia and other cancer cases, to share experiences, to produce common solutions and to warn against possible dangers that cause cancer.
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Specialist from Üsküdar University NPİSTANBUL Hospital, Uzm. Dr. Başak Ayık stated that childhood cancers seen in children between the ages of 0-18 are only 1.2% among all cancer types and said, “Although it can be seen at any age from the newborn period to adolescence, the most common period is the first 5 years of age. Every year, 3 thousand children in Turkey and 175,000 children in the world are diagnosed with cancer. In childhood cancers, about 60-70 percent improvement can be achieved with early diagnosis and correct treatment.
Stating that in studies conducted with children with cancer, psychosocial problems were mentioned in more than half of the patients in general. Başak Ayık, “The most frequently detected problems are; separation anxiety, fear of school, adjustment disorders, non-adherence to treatment, oppositional behaviors towards family members and treatment team, and treatment rejection. It has been determined that different psychiatric problems occur at different stages of the treatment.
The problems experienced in each period are different.
Expressing that children’s response to cancer differs according to age groups, Dr. Ayık listed these periods and the reactions as follows:
“in infancy; they experience fear due to painful medical procedures, they react to separation from the mother and changes in their patterns. Eating and sleep disorders, crying, infancy depression can be seen. He may experience regression in his skills such as toilet training and feeding that he has gained until that day.
in preschool; magical thinking. The child cannot fully understand the disease and thinks that he is punished for a crime he has committed. However, if the disease is explained in a language appropriate to the child’s developmental level, the child can understand it to a large extent.
at school; During this period, children’s mental development is better. They better understand the concepts related to the disease, its causes, treatment and course. For this reason, they have the right to know information about the name of the disease, treatment, possible side effects and progress. These children frequently express the themes of anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, separation, and death in their stories. Child; As he stays away from school and friends, he may feel unhappiness, dejection and withdraw.
During adolescence; In this period, the child can now understand the disease as in the adult period. He wonders about the disease, starts to gather information about the causes and results of the disease from many sources. Anxiety about the future begins, he is disturbed by the changes in his body due to the disease and the side effects of the drugs he uses. He may experience confusion due to loss of independence, deterioration of peer relations, and sexual development being affected.
Listen to these suggestions on the long and difficult journey
Stating that families are also going through a difficult period during this period, Dr. Başak Ayık stated that the treatment process of childhood cancers is a long and tiring journey that can cause both physical and mental difficulties and made the following recommendations:
“In order to make this journey as good as possible, the first thing to do is to accept the current situation as quickly as possible. Although denial is one of the first emotional reactions given during the bereavement period, in order to overcome any negative event that has happened to the person, first of all, he must come to the stage of accepting the event.
After the acceptance phase, request information from your physician as much as you can carry mentally and repeat this request as needed throughout the process. Having accurate and sufficient information will help keep you away from anxiety and fear caused by uncertainty on this path.
never blame yourself
Parents of children with cancer often blame themselves for their child’s illness. This ‘guilt feeling’, which has no real basis, can drag you into depression and make your existing problems even more difficult. Do not blame yourself or your partner for causing the illness.
Communication and cooperation within the family is important.
Long hospital stays affect family dynamics negatively. Domestic roles are changing, the parent who takes care of the sick child cannot find time for anything else and thinks that he neglects all other family members, including himself, while the other parent may experience intense feelings of guilt as the person who is not the primary caregiver for the sick child. In order to reduce or eliminate these negativities, be in communication and cooperation with your spouse. Support each other.
Protect but do not prevent him from socializing
Even if your need to protect and watch your child increases, try to maintain his social life by paying attention to the precautions his doctor recommends to protect him from infection as much as possible. Remember that cancer is not a contagious disease! Do not keep him away from his friends and siblings during this period when he needs social support the most. Try not to make changes in their daily routine.
Professional support required
Instead of accepting all your child’s reactions during this process as ‘normal’, seek professional support for both them and yourself when necessary. Children are like mirrors of their parents. The depression and anxiety experienced by the parents are also reflected in the children.”