Coping Together as a Family

Spending quality time with your children is one of the most important things you can do to help them cope with an illness in the family. Doing a fun activity together or just being in the car on a day trip can provide a safe way to talk about what is happening and how it is affecting them. Here are suggestions for family activities you can do together.

Enjoy quiet time. Do low-key activities, such as reading a favorite story or watching a favorite show.

Be creative. Use clay, paint, crayons or other materials to work out frustrations that you and the children share.

Plan for laughter. Read the comics together, check out a humor book from the library, like Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic. Laughter is good medicine for everyone.

Cook a meal together. The time planning the meal and shopping for ingredients can be just as fun as eating it.

Join a peer support group. Meeting other people of similar age who are facing a family illness can help you and your child cope with uncertainties and fears. 

Take a day trip. Visit the beach, explore a museum, hike a trail or find other activities you like to do together.

Create strong boxes. This activity can help you explore your strengths and fears. Using a pencil box, purchased box, gift box or shoebox, decorate the outside by drawing or gluing pictures of things that remind you of your strengths. Next, write down your worries or fears on slips of paper and put them inside the box. 

Then discuss your strong boxes. Talk about the strengths that can help you deal with specific stressors. Talk about how its normal to have worries and fears—how writing them down and placing them in the box lessens their power. Encourage your children to talk to you about their feelings, especially feelings that bother them. This exercise was adapted from the book Cancer in the Family: Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Illness.