Childhood Cancer

Childhood Leukemia

Chapter 19: Communication and Behavior

“When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments: tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.”

— Louis Pasteur

UNDER THE BEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES, child rearing is a daunting task. When parenting is complicated by a tremendous crisis such as childhood cancer, normal family life is disrupted, and all sorts of confusing and distressing feelings and behaviors may appear. When people are under great stress, they often behave in ways they would not under normal circumstances. In response, parenting styles may need to adjust to the frequently shifting needs and behaviors of the ill child and affected siblings.

This chapter discusses feelings that many children have about their disease and some emotional and behavioral changes that may arise in both children and parents. It also offers suggestions for maintaining effective communication and appropriate behavior within the family. Parents share stories about what they experienced and how they coped with their and their ill child’s powerful, and sometimes overwhelming, emotions. For more stories about the emotions of siblings, please see Chapter 17, Siblings.