Part 2: 5 Tips for Supporting Children and Youth who have a Parent or Caregiver with a Serious Medical Illness

With so much attention given to a person who is sick or hospitalized, it’s not unusual for families to forget about the children or youth in their lives who may also be affected by this illness. For these children and youth though, feeling “forgotten” can be extremely difficult as they are faced with feelings of loneliness, confusion, anger, sadness and many others, often feeling like they have no one to turn to for support.

Last month we introduced to you our new Island for Youth of Adult Patients; an online platform for youth aged 10-18 to connect with others who are going through the same experience, wherever they may be in the globe and at whatever hour they choose to log on. 

While providing youth with options to meet others who are navigating the same journey as them is arguably one of the most important ways to encourage positive coping, there are things you can do as an adult in their lives to continue to help support them outside of our online platform. 

Read on for 5 tips for supporting children and youth who have a parent or caregiver with a serious medical illness:

  1. Acknowledge their feelings. Whether that’s happy, angry, sad, scared, or frustrated. However, it’s important to remember that everyone expresses their emotions differently; accept the way this child or youth is expressing theirs. 
  2. Focus on quality time together over quantity. What this child or youth needs right now is a support person they feel they can open up to, which is largely affected by the time you spend with them. Try to be fully present during your time with them so you can focus on the conversation, and most importantly their thoughts and feelings.
  3. Keep routines as consistent as possible. Be sure to prepare them for any changes in their day or week; continue with daily routines including going to school, doing homework, and any daily family traditions like reading before bed, and ensure they get to bed at their usual bedtime. 
  4. Be honest. Most of the time, children and youth can sense when something is not right or out of the norm. Keeping anything a secret gives them the opportunity to come up with their own scenarios, which tend to be far worse than reality. Be open and honest about their caregiver’s health, especially if they ask questions.
  5. Consider ways to help them stay connected with their caregiver. This could mean offering to take them for visits to the hospital, writing cards or drawing pictures for their caregiver, or having video calls or quality time alone together. 

Last but not least, it’s important to rely on any adults who have a trusting relationship with the child or youth; they will be able to help watch out for any unusual behaviours, and provide them with extra support and attention that they’re currently missing. 

If you know a youth aged 10-18 years who has a parent or caregiver with a serious medical illness, refer them to Upopolis today! E-mail support@upopolis.com for more information. 

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