Helping Children Cope with a Family Member's Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplant

During your recovery period, necessary changes in household routines may be upsetting for children.

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Recovering from transplant is truly a family affair. During the first few months of recovery, the household routine will change in ways that affect every family member.

Special precautions to protect you from infection will include limiting visitors, particularly those who are ill or who have been exposed to someone who is ill. This may mean your children cannot invite friends to the house for a period of time which may be distressing.

Until you recover, other family members may need to pitch in and help out with household chores. Children may resent the extra work.

Visits to the clinic or doctor's office will be frequent, and young children may need to come along. It can be boring for children to sit for long periods of time in clinic waiting rooms, particularly if it keeps them away from their friends and favorite activities.

Your children may:

  • withdraw during this period
  • refuse to talk with parents
  • behave inappropriately at school or home.

It may help your children to talk with a trained counselor who can allow them to express their feelings and fears in a safe environment, without offending parents. 

Helping Siblings of Young Transplant Patients

If your child is the patient, siblings may feel left out when your child comes home. They may resent the extra attention your child is getting or feel they are subject to a different set of rules.

Siblings may say they are sick in order to gain attention. Often, the child actually believes that he or she is sick. Don't dismiss your child's complaint of sickness. Treat it with as much concern as you would a complaint from the transplant survivor.

Be certain to listen to siblings and address their needs as best you can. Although it can be difficult, setting aside some special time to spend with each child in the family is important. Each child needs to know that he or she is still loved and important. Even something as simple as a walk in the park, a trip to the ice cream shop or watching a favorite movie together can reinforce this point.

Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open between all members of the family. Recovery from transplant can be challenging for a family, but with each other's help you will work through the process and may find that your family bonds grow stronger.

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Next Page: Late Complications

Updated June 2024