Cancer influences a child’s development in different ways. We look at some of the effects on social, emotional, and cognitive development in today’s article. Children Cancer Fund sees a lot of children with cancer and we also see how the disease affects them. Children who live with cancer are some of the most resilient people you will ever meet in your life. However, certain parts of their development are still influenced.
Isolation – Older kids and teenagers may withdraw and feel isolated because of hospitalization and not spending as much time with their friends. Younger kids tend to be less influenced by this and will still keep playing with other kids in the hospital. Older kids may feel more isolated and even withdraw further because of this. What often helps older kids with their social development, is meeting other kids that are the same age and going through the same or similar experience.
Depression – Kids and teenagers of all ages may experience some level of depression. The treatments, their diagnosis, the isolation, and their fears can all contribute to depression and anxiety. Parents should be aware of this possibility and ensure that their child feels loved and that he or she can talk to them about those fears and anxieties.
School – When children with cancer have to be hospitalized or receive treatments that take them out of school for long periods, their cognitive development may fall behind. It is important for parents to make sure that they find ways to fill the gaps and ensure that their children stay on track and develop their cognitive skills as they should. Home schooling and other teaching resources will help with that. Therapists at the hospital will probably have contacts and ideas for helping parents overcome this problem.
Rebellion – Sometimes kids with cancer act out because of the frustration, fear and anger they experience. A child with cancer has a different way of seeing the world and his or her world changes immediately when a cancer diagnosis is made. For a child who lived a normal and active life for years before the diagnosis, the acceptance of this can be difficult. Rebellion in kids and teenagers that are trying to deal with their disease and come to terms with what it means, are common.
Socialization – Socialization is part of growing up and it is necessary for children to develop social skills and learn how to interact with others. It can easily happen that a child with cancer does not have enough opportunities to socialize. It is important that parents try and ensure that their children get time to spend with other children their age. It often happens that treatment centers in hospitals have programs where the children can play and be kids. It is a good idea to encourage your child to take part in these activities.
Cancer is never an easy thing and in some ways, it may even be harder for children than adults. For more information on development and other related issues, please visit the RESOURCES page on this website.