Cancer and it's treatment can change how the body looks. There is usually hair-loss and children frequently lose or gain weight. Children, especially school-age children and teenagers, may struggle with the changes taking place in their bodies during treatment. Additionally they may feel nauseated or tired.
Your child may feel that his/her body is not doing what it’s supposed to. He/she may not feel “normal” because his/her body does not look or function as it did or like everyone else’s body. Your child may also feel as if he/she has no privacy. He/she may need you and others to help with basic tasks such as eating or using the bathroom. This can be embarrassing and humiliating for a child who is trying to gain independence.
The following is a list of suggestions that may help to improve your child’s/teen’s body image:
- Ask your child how he/she feels about changes in his/her body. Let him/her know these feelings are okay.
- Practice conversations that your child may have with people who see changes in his/her appearance. Make up lighthearted responses to use when talking with friends. This can help him/her feel more comfortable answering questions.
- Prepare for physical changes before they begin. For example, when facing hair loss, many children choose to cut hair short before it begins to fall out. This way the change is not as drastic. Some children completely shave their heads. Any action may provide children with a sense of control over the situation. When hair does fall out, some children choose to wear wigs. Others choose to wear hats or nothing at all on their heads. Make it an enjoyable experience for your child to choose what is best for him/her.
- Some teens may not be comfortable talking with parents about these issues. Support your teen to find someone to talk with. This may be a team member or another teen that is going through a similar experience.
- Remind your teen that any changes in his/her body are temporary but understand that this won’t relieve their immediate distress.
- If your child needs more privacy while in the hospital or clinic ask care providers to knock before entering rooms and explain procedures ahead of time.
- Your teenager may need private time while at the hospital or separate conversations with health team members. Although this may be hard for parents, remember that teens are working to become independent and need some privacy and autonomy. For more information see the link below: