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Resources

How children’s counselling helps siblings manage the effects of cancer

After Emily was diagnosed with cancer, children’s counselling played an important role in supporting the emotional wellbeing of Emily and her sister Lucy.

Emily and Lucy are sisters who live in Queensland. Their world was turned upside down when their dad Colin was diagnosed with bowel cancer. After a tumultuous 17 months of treatment, he passed away suddenly from a bout of pneumonia.

Emily’s mum, Melanie noticed some unusual bruising on her and noticed Emily had lost a little bit of her enigmatic, bright, vivacious spirit, and seemed a bit flat. Melanie’s world came crashing down around her again when Emily, six at the time, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia in October 2021.

“To have two diagnoses of cancer within two years of each other in the one household just seemed surreal. And once again, I was put in this position where I was completely blindsided.”

Melanie, found herself overwhelmed, dealing with the immense emotional challenges that came with Emily’s cancer diagnoses.

“Emily became very depressed and withdrawn, due high dose steroids and started to lash out at me and because of everything that was going on, Lucy became withdrawn.”

Emily’s school counsellor made the referral to Redkite, and within 24 hours, Redkite social worker Sara, was on the phone to me asking Melanie about her situation.

Children’s counselling played an important role in supporting the emotional wellbeing of Emily and Lucy.

“[Redkite social worker] Sara had a really warm and engaging manner both with me and my girls. I felt I was able to be vulnerable with her and tell her that actually things aren’t great at the moment. She was a safe place in order to be able to verbalise that.”

“Sarah had a type of therapy that really resonated with my girls, and she was able to speak a language with both my girls through their toys. I couldn’t play with my girls. I was managing the house, my career, and their appointments. I did notice a calm start to descend on the family, things were less volatile. The outbursts and the anger started to dissipate from Emily. And because Emily was starting to settle the flow on effect was Lucy was starting to settle as well.”

For Melanie, it was the acknowledgement from Sara about Emily’s behaviour which was valuable to her. Sara helped her understand there were significant issues and various factors contributing to Emily’s reactions, feelings and emotions, some of it was just being a child, some having cancer, and some of it was her father passing away at an early age.

“Here’s the thing about childhood cancer. It’s not just about the child who’s affected. It’s a family illness and it affects us all in very different ways. I could see there was a great potential that this would harm Lucy and that this would affect the trajectory of her life. There was a gap in our lives that wasn’t being filled by the hospital team and Redkite filled that gap in that they were able to support the entire family.”

“I could see there was a great potential that this would harm Lucy and that this would affect the trajectory of her life.”

Emily and Lucy love playing board games, read stories, catching up with neighbours and play in the parks around their house. Both sisters are thriving at school.

Redkite’s children’s counselling sessions are personalised to each child and their unique situation and challenges. Activities are chosen based on a child’s age, personal interests, personality, likes, and dislikes. 

  • Online interactive therapy tools to work on anxiety and big overwhelming feelings
  • Illustrative emotion cards to help children verbalise how they are feeling
  • Practicing deep breathing with the help of visuals music and sound
  • Stories that help to teach children about worry and how to handle it
  • Games, puzzles, and drawings

Redkite provides counselling for children aged 0-18 years who have been affected by cancer. This includes the diagnosed child, their brothers and sisters, friends and relatives.

Redkite’s children’s counselling is free and available for all children affected by childhood cancer.

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