Caregiving often changes the roles and responsibilities of every member of a family, and this can take some getting used to.

The most noticeable impact is usually on young children, particularly if the carer is their mother or father. As a rule, children like routine, and a parent’s focus on someone else’s needs can throw them. If they are not coping with these changes, they may not sleep well, may wet the bed, or they may play up as a way of reclaiming attention.

Care giving may also put strain on other relationships within the family. Some family members may feel they are carrying the burden of responsibility, while others may feel left out. Some may resent the changes in routine and loss of normality.

What may help

Reassure children

Children need to know they are loved and will be cared for. Communication is the key. Let them know what is happening and who will be taking care of them. If a caregiver can’t give their children the time they need they may like to ask another trusted adult to give them some extra attention.

Family talks

It may pay to schedule in regular family meetings (perhaps a weekly meal) where everyone can air their thoughts and feelings without being judged. This may also be a good time to go over routine matters in order to maintain a sense of normality in day-to-day life.

Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015