Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Michael Guerrera
At OneVillage, we’re dedicated to helping families with cancer. One of the most difficult tasks can often be finding ways to provide childhood cancer family support and keep a marriage strong. For parents, having to care for a child with cancer is a massive emotional investment. It is not uncommon to see marriages buckle or even break under the emotional strain put on the family. However, this is a time when strong family bonds are most important.
Couples with a child dealing with cancer should know that they are not alone in their struggles. Many others have gone through similar experiences, and there is a wide range of childhood cancer family support available. To get you started, here are a few things to consider when trying to keep a marriage strong through a child’s cancer journey.
Be Open With Each Other
One of the most important parts of helping families with cancer is developing the ability to communicate openly. There is a temptation to devote everything to understanding the child’s feelings while ignoring your partner’s feelings. But this isn’t fair to yourself or your partner. It’s important that you’re able to speak with each other about the current situation openly. If you find that speaking about your feelings all the time is negatively impacting your relationship, it’s okay to limit the amount of time daily you can discuss the situation. Making devoted, timed spaces for sharing can allow you to stay in touch with what the other person is feeling without letting the situation consume your relationship and emotional life.
Remember that everyone will handle grief and stress differently. If one partner requests that they receive more space to process their feelings, that should be respected. At the same time, a partner that requests more open love and support should be able to receive this as well. Keeping a marriage strong during this time is a delicate balance of give and take.
Partition Your Time
One way to help achieve this difficult balance is to be mindful of how your time is spent. Many parents will feel that they need to devote 100% of their time and emotional energy caring for their child, but this is a surefire method to burn out. This won’t end up helping the child either. Children can pick up on how their parents are feeling -- they may start to feel that they are to blame for their parent’s difficult marriage and develop feelings of guilt.
This is why it is vital to set aside time every week to be with your partner. You should be able to engage in emotional and physical intimacy during these times without feeling guilty. This could be a small dessert or coffee date, or even a card game by the child’s bedside while they’re sleeping. This will not only keep your marriage strong but help you manage the emotional stress that daily childhood cancer family support brings.
You should also try to create times that partners can spend alone. Create a list of non-negotiable things you need to feel your best each day and handle the emotional burdens of this chapter in your life. Honor each other’s alone time as much as you cherish the time together to make your time together more special. By rotating your attention between your child, your partner, and yourself, you avoid emotional burnout and make all of these connections stronger.
Use Your Support Systems
For many, being able to have time to give to everyone, and themselves seems like an impossibility. You need to be able to confidently rely on your support systems. Your friends and family likely are willing to help if you ask. You can help them help you as well - tell them what is most appropriate to put in a care package for a caregiver of a cancer patient, for example. Most people are happy helping families with cancer and our wishlist is a great place to let people know what you need.
Learn More With OneVillage
If you don’t know if your immediate support group is up to the task, there are a variety of charities that provide childhood cancer family support. OneVillage is dedicated to providing goods, services, and information needed for childhood cancer family support. If you have any questions about how we can help, don’t hesitate to contact us.