Well Meaning People…Too Many Toys!!!

“My son was in treatment for three long years. Everyone, including me, showered him with gifts and attention. How many video games can one child play? Now, we are trying to get our life back to normal and he is used to being the center of the universe. How can we make this transition back to normal?”


When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, things that would normally be expected of them stop. Behaviors that would not be tolerated otherwise, are often acceptable and the child learns new boundaries for what they can and can’t do. This can snowball into what some call how they play the “sick role.” Taking advantage of new found freedom can lead to a sense of wanting and needing to get anything they want. Excuses for not taking out the trash or other expected tasks can be used even if the child is feeling relatively well.


On the other hand, other children might have difficulty with added attention and seek to be left alone. In either case, transitioning to a “well child” can be difficult for children and parents alike. Learning new expectations, boundaries and limits can be a challenge. It is important that parents discuss with the child what are the changing rules and expectations and consequences for not following them and give them a period of transition while the entire family gets used to the new way of being. In spite of the better prognosis, also remember that there may be lingering fear of relapse that plays a part in their behavior. If a child does not respond to a behavioral plan within a few months after ceasing treatment, you may want to seek professional help from a behavioral therapist who specializes in medical issues.


Article contributed by Dr. Kate Eastman, Psy.D, LCSW and Dr. Elizabeth Samenfeld-Spect PhD.